Belated, but here’s a look at the unveiling of the Wooden statue if you didn’t make it out Friday afternoon. Skip to the 4:00 mark if you want to skip Dan Guerrero’s comments and get right to the curtain pull.
Also, here’s the story that appeared on today’s front page:
Something was off at first.
The right earlobe, which in life had been slightly longer than the left.
The stomach, which in bronze arched out into a hint of a pot belly.
Those are the kinds of details John Wooden’s daughter, Nan, pored over when working with sculptor Blair Buswell. The project had to be perfect: an 8-foot, nearly 400-pound statue of the iconic UCLA coach, unveiled Friday afternoon just outside the north entrance of Pauley Pavilion.
“I wanted people to be able to look at it and say, `Oh, that’s John Wooden,”‘ Nan said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
He now stands in a campus thoroughfare, with arms folded, knee bent, gazing out in thoughtful repose from behind his black-frame glasses.
The hope, many said, was that Wooden — who led the UCLA basketball team to 10 NCAA championships from 1948 to 1975 — would continue to inspire the thousands of students that will walk past him every day.
The two-year process was made possible in part by a donation by Jim Collins, chairman emeritus of Sizzler International and active UCLA alum. Calling Wooden a “friend for life,” Collins shared a story from the coach’s non-basketball activities.
In 1982, Collins — who first met Wooden in late 1950 — suggested Wooden take a place on the board of directors; the coach and his wife, Nell, had been frequent customers at the Sizzler location on Ventura Boulevard, near their Encino home. Wooden said yes. For nine years, he never missed a quarterly meeting.
For nearly half an hour, underneath the sweltering sun, students and alumni alike shared their own memories. David Bocarsly, a third-generation Bruin, reminisced about the games he attended growing up; at halftime, he would often run down to Wooden’s seat to say hello.
Chancellor Gene Block talked about Wooden’s famed “Pyramid of Success,” a copy of which adorned his office.
The task of capturing what Wooden was in all things, to all people, was immense. Tipped for the task was Buswell, a sculptor who has spent 30 years crafting inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The resident of Pleasant Grove, Utah, spent a day combing through the UCLA archives, perusing hundreds upon hundreds of pictures before he found the right one: a picture of Wooden in his late coaching days, plaid-jacketed and wearing an expression of confidence and intensity.
“I loved the expression,” Buswell said. “And I thought, if I could capture that, I’ve got something.”
Buswell spent a year on the statue, half of which was spent working on the full-size model. He juggled other projects as well, but this was his major undertaking of the year. The result, he said, is among the highlights of his career.
Shipped some 700 miles, the statue was unveiled in a flurry of applause as a UCLA-branded veil was drawn. The irony, of course, is that Wooden himself – who died in 2010 at 99 years old – likely would have declined such a gesture.
“He’d probably pooh-pooh this,” said former UCLA women’s basketball great Ann Meyers Drysdale, who emceed the ceremony. “He wasn’t one to draw attention to himself.”
“He would have been against it,” said his grandson, Greg Wooden. “Absolutely. Unless his whole team could be out there.”
Wooden might have scoffed at his own bronze likeness, but his statue is as much for those around him as it is for the man himself.
On the stone base beneath his feet, etched into a bronze plaque, is one of his favorite sayings: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”