Heading down to UCLA for a basketball game is normally a big deal. The Bruins play in Pauley Pavilion, and have won eleven NCAA National Championships, mostly under legendary Coach John Wooden. It was dedicated in 1965, named for UC Regent Edwin Pauley, who matched alumni contributions. It was renovated in 2010-2012. Attending a game there, despite the team’s modest success of late, is still quite magical.
Imagine getting to play there! Yes, I was visiting some friends on the UCLA campus back in the early Seventies. One of my friends, a med student at the time, and a real basketball junkie, suggested that we find some pickup basketball games at Pauley. Imagine playing on the floor where ten (later eleven) championship banners hang, along with the retired jerseys of Kareen Jabbar, Bill Walton, Denise Curry and Ann Meyers. Outside, there is an eight-foot statue of the legendary Coack Wooden.
But I mention all of this in a different context. UCLA was my second choice for college, after U.C. Berkeley. And I was accepted first at UCLA, followed a few weeks later by Berkeley. My life may have turned out quite differently, who knows? Later in the early Seventies, I applied for grad school here, at the School of Public Health. But again, Berkeley was my first, and ultimate choice.
So, why am I here now? The first reason is the NFC Championship game tomorrow with my Niners down the road at So-Fi Stadium. And since my chauffeur, Big Bob insisted on driving down today, we are going to the UCLA Stanford men’s basketball game this evening.
Pauley Pavilion is used for music concerts as well. Past performers include Bob Hope, Luciano Pavarotti, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Metallica, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, and Guns N Roses. And it is not unusual to see various luminaries in the stands. Years past, I saw HR Haldeman (Nixon’s hatchet man), Sam Gilbert (who purportedly bought Jabbar a Corvette), Kingsburg’s own Rafer Johnson (who played basketball for Coach Wooden), the late Don Drysdale (whose wife was Ann Meyers), and various Hollywood stars who are basketball junkies.
The UCLA campus is not a bad “consolation” prize, even for a 17-year-old out of a small valley town. Great weather, pretty coeds, beautiful campus, strong sports tradition. Sounds great!
A nice early dinner at the LA Farmer’s Market, some college basketball, and the big NFC championship tomorrow. I would say it is a nice weekend, rekindling some old memories, and making some new ones.