As UCLA women seek NIT crown, these ex-Bruins miss their '85 banner

As UCLA women seek an NIT title, Bruins men would like to see their '85 banner restored to Pauley Pavilion

At halftime of a UCLA men's basketball game this season, the Bruins honored members of the 1985 team on the 30th anniversary of its National Invitation Tournament title.

Before the ceremony, Nigel Miguel, a senior on that team, said someone asked about a long-forgotten topic: When would the school do something about the squad's NIT championship banner?

The banner had hung for 10 years in Pauley Pavilion, but after the Bruins won the 1995 national championship it was put in storage — banished out of sight and mind.

"Like a child that was born out of wedlock," said Brad Wright, a senior on the team.

The three seniors from that team — Miguel, Wright and captain Gary Maloncon — said recently they would like to see the banner restored to the rafters. Josh Rupprecht, an athletic department spokesman, indicated that is unlikely.

But UCLA officials may soon have another decision to make. On Saturday, the UCLA women's basketball team will play for an NIT title.

The question is: If UCLA beats West Virginia, will the school hang the banner in Pauley Pavilion?

Asked about the men's banner in 2012, athletic department officials said they were unable to locate it. Recently, Rupprecht confirmed that the banner was stored but said it was unlikely anyone had looked for it in some time.

Hanging banners in Pauley Pavilion has become tricky, mostly because UCLA has many of them. In 1995, when the NIT banner was removed, the administration determined the space was meant only for national championships.

Among those that hang, some are replicas. During the renovation of Pauley Pavilion in 2012, the school decided it wanted a uniform look. The older banners were of different sizes, so the school ordered new ones. Some of the originals were auctioned off.

The seniors from the 1985 team say their disappointment is with the former administration, not the current one. It is less about the banner, they say, than the feeling that UCLA is erasing history.

The players have fond memories of the season. In the previous year, 1984, UCLA rejected its NIT invitation, citing academic concerns. But when the program decided to accept in 1985, the players resolved to bring back some hardware.

Led by Reggie Miller, UCLA defeated Steve Alford and Indiana in the NIT finals. When the Bruins returned to Westwood, the banner went up.

Ten years later, UCLA won its 11th national championship. Miguel remembers the ceremony at which that banner replaced his team's. His teammates, he said, were too busy celebrating the new title to worry.

At the ceremony, Jim Harrick, the coach of the 1995 team, teased Miguel.

"Well, you had a nice run up there," Miguel recalled Harrick as saying. "But it's time to move over."

And Miguel was glad.

"I didn't look at it like our banner got removed," he said. "I looked at it like another NCAA banner went up."

Wright said he felt that the administration was erasing history. And as his teammates have grown older, Miguel said, they have come to agree.

Rupprecht said the current administration would not reverse the decision made 20 years ago. He said there have been discussions about other ways to honor the 1985 team, including a display in the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame or in the Pauley Pavilion concourse.

Wright said it's not really about whether or not the banner is restored. He just wants the team to have a place in UCLA lore.

For the team on Saturday, he has a piece of advice.

Win it for yourselves, for your teammates, he said. Don't win it for the banner.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
79°