No Ordinary Retirement Home : Pauley Pavilion: UCLA celebrates 25th anniversary of arena where John Wooden won eight of his 10 NCAA championships by hanging up jerseys of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton today.


In 1949, in his first year as basketball coach at UCLA, long before wizard and Westwood started being used in the same sentence, John Wooden began each practice by dust-mopping the floor of Men’s Gym.

He used special oversized mops of his own design that he coaxed the school’s maintenance department to make. After Wooden and the team managers had made sure that the dirt on the practice court had been swept away by a broom, he would sprinkle water in front of the oncoming six-foot mops, covered with towels.

That was how practice began on the second floor of Men’s Gym, where basketball workouts shared space with wrestling mats and gymnastics equipment, such as trampolines. Students sometimes visited during basketball practice and started bouncing on the trampolines.

“I used to facetiously say, when coeds in leotards would come use the trampolines, that the players would notice them--and of course I wouldn’t,” Wooden said.

The practice routine never varied, though, and it was always in the same cramped, dusty locale, the upper floor of a building erected in 1932.


What were called UCLA home games were not often played at UCLA, although the last Bruin game at Men’s Gym was not until March, 1959. Wooden’s Bruins played most of their home games at the Sports Arena, Santa Monica City College, Venice High School, Long Beach City College, Long Beach Auditorium and Pan Pacific Auditorium.

“I had wanted a place and had been led to believe when I came to UCLA that within three years we would have a nice place on campus,” Wooden said. “Of course, we didn’t get it until after I had been there 17 years.”

For the last 25 years, though, UCLA has had that nice place on campus. Pauley Pavilion, named after the former head of the State Board of Regents, is marking a quarter of a century of existence. In conjunction with the season-long observance of its anniversary, the No. 33 UCLA jersey of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was Lew Alcindor in his UCLA days, and the No. 32 jersey of Bill Walton will be retired today in a ceremony at halftime of UCLA’s game against DePaul. The jerseys of women’s stars Ann Meyers and Denise Curry also will be retired.

When the building was still in the planning stages, Wooden fought for extra room along the sidelines and in the end zones, as well as for visiting locker rooms equal in size to UCLA’s. Those were courtesies, he said, that should be extended if under one’s control.

“I think that our winning the (national) championship in 1964 and then repeating it in 1965 was far more amazing than winning afterwards when we got to Pauley Pavilion,” Wooden said. “In 1964, for example, Alcindor was a junior in New York City and (winning the national championship) attracted his attention. In his senior year, we repeated as champions and that solidified his interest.

“And when he visited us in that April, one of the things that I could do was take him up to Pauley Pavilion (and say), ‘Now that’s going to be open, (you’re) going to play the first game ever played in it.’ I think it’s one of the reasons Alcindor came. And of course, that’s what helped us get a string going.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t have come if we hadn’t had Pauley Pavilion. But on the other hand, he wouldn’t have come had we not won in ’64 and ’65 and attracted his attention.”

Since it opened in the fall of 1965, the Bruins have a 360-37 record there. In the first 10 years at Pauley, UCLA was 149-2. The Bruins once won 98 consecutive games there. The streak started with the 1970-'71 season opener and finally was ended on Feb. 21, 1976, when Oregon State won, 65-45. There are 10 NCAA championship banners hanging in Pauley and Abdul-Jabbar and Walton were around for five of them. Wooden, of course, was there for all 10.

“I think I had a part in it, of course,” Wooden said. “But no coach has an exceptional record if he doesn’t have exceptional players. I’m not trying to be naive or excessively modest or anything because just as quickly I’d say not every coach does well with exceptional players.

“Yes, I was part of building the tradition, but I was just a part.”

Abdul-Jabbar and Walton played major parts.

“I don’t believe there’s been a more valuable player in college basketball than Kareem,” Wooden said. “And I think that’s pretty well proven. He would have to be considered the main cog in our three consecutive national championships. Now, of course, no other team has ever won three consecutive national championships. We won seven. I honestly think that had he been eligible as a freshman, we’d have won one more (which would have made it a mind-boggling 10 NCAA titles in a row).

“There were plenty of opposing coaches who said, ‘Wait till he’s gone, they’ll get their comeuppance.’ But after he graduated, we won two more in succession with Steve Patterson as center. He’s sort of the answer to the trivia question: ‘Who is the center of the national championship teams between Alcindor and Walton?’

“Then Walton came. I would say that in many respects, and I’ve tried to be as objective as possible, that Kareem is the most valuable player because he put more of a burden on the opposing teams at each end of the court than Bill.

“But at the same time, if you graded the players on all the fundamental aspects of the game on, say, a one-to-10 basis--passing, defense, rebounding, outletting, shooting--I think that Bill might have the higher rating of the two.

“You might say then that Bill would be the better basketball player, but Kareem is more valuable. Well, that’s altogether possible.”

In those Camelot years at UCLA, when Alcindor and Walton each staked his claim as the dominant center of the day, it was at Pauley they displayed their magical powers.


The very first game played in Pauley Pavilion was on Nov. 27, 1965. It matched the two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA Bruins, ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, and the UCLA freshman team, led by the 7-foot-1, 18-year-old Alcindor from Power Memorial High in New York City.

“That intra-squad game was weird for me,” Abdul-Jabbar recalls. “I can remember before the game, I didn’t know what to think because I thought we could beat them, but I really didn’t feel that it was appropriate for me to speculate about it. So I didn’t. After all, it was the Bruins playing the Bruins. I tried to keep my emotions out of it.”

But the varsity couldn’t keep his shots out of the basket. Before 12,051, Abdul-Jabbar scored 31 points and had 21 rebounds in a startling 75-60 victory for the freshmen. Two other prep All-Americans on the freshman team were guard Lucius Allen from Kansas and forward Lynn Shackleford from Burroughs High in Burbank. The varsity was led by forwards Edgar Lacy and Mike Lynn.

Ahead 36-31 at halftime, the freshmen went on a 10-0 run early in the second half, Abdul-Jabbar scoring six of the points in that span. That intra-squad game, is regarded as a watershed game in UCLA history. But at the time, Abdul-Jabbar was not thinking about history being made.

“I just felt kind of odd that we could beat a varsity Pac-8 team like that,” he said. “You know, before the game, our assistant coach, Jake Hardy, said ‘Listen you guys, play hard, you’ll beat that team by 15 points.’ That’s just what he said. And that was exactly the score.

“All I remember is they couldn’t press us and we were faster than they were. We broke the press real easy. They’d pass it to me and I’d come up by our free throw line in the backcourt there and I’d just hit guys cutting left or right and they beat them down the court. That was an easy game for us.”

Once Abdul-Jabbar became eligible for the varsity team as a sophomore, there were whole series of easy games. He scored 56 points against USC in his first varsity game and 61 against Washington State, both at Pauley. He scored lots of his points on dunks, a shot that the NCAA banned after Abdul-Jabbar’s sophomore year. But if Abdul-Jabbar’s headlines emanated from his shooting the ball, he got perhaps his greatest pleasure out of passing it.

“I always enjoyed it because it was like automatic layups,” he said. “I just enjoyed spreading it around. It was fun. The game was fun and easy. We got our challenge out of how well we could execute the things Coach Wooden wanted us to.

“Probably the game I most remember is when we played Colorado State my sophomore year. They were solid and they gave us a tough game.”

The Rams, who featured power players such as 6-8 Bob Rule, 6-10 Dale Schlueter and 6-10 Mike Davis, twice cut UCLA’s lead to one point, but the Bruins won, 84-74, on Dec. 22, 1966, in Pauley. Against double- and triple-team defenses, Abdul-Jabbar had 34 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots.

“For me, that game was crucial because I developed a lot of confidence in Coach Wooden and what he knew,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He knew how to use his weapons a lot more effectively than other coaches. Those other games where I scored a lot of points, they weren’t really challenges. This one, we were being tested. And Coach Wooden had all the answers.”

Abdul-Jabbar said that if he were athletic director, he would make one change at Pauley.

“I always wanted them to have the seats come up to the end lines,” he said. “I always thought that that took away from some of our home-court advantage. They could put risers there.

“Pauley helped sell me on wanting to come to UCLA. When I came out to visit, they hadn’t put the floor in. They had finished everything but the floor. So the floor was just a big concrete slab. You know, I walked in the building, and geez, that was a very impressive building in 1965. It was state of the art. And it’s still on a par with the best arenas as far as sight lines and everything.”

Abdul-Jabbar, 42, divides his time between Bel-Air and Hawaii. His second book, a diary of his final season with the Lakers, is due out shortly.


Bill Walton said the Bruins played a lot of good games at Pauley during his tenure in Westwood, but there was a pretty fair explanation.

“You know, we had such a great basketball team,” he said. “We shouldn’t have ever lost any of the games we played, but we did. But some of the most special memories I have of Pauley would have been in practice.

“We had incredibly competitive practices. And Coach Wooden was just really an inspirational leader in terms of conducting practice and the importance of practice. I loved them.

“Practice was just war out there. In 1974, we had a lot of great players on the second string--Swen Nater, Andre McCarter, Marques Johnson, Richard Washington, Ralph Drollinger. Everybody knew that if you didn’t produce, you were going to the bench and somebody else is going to be out there playing. You know, playing time is a very special deal.”

Of all the special games Walton played at Pauley, perhaps the one that is most remembered would be the UCLA-Notre Dame game of Jan. 26, 1974. The week before, Notre Dame had beaten UCLA in South Bend, 71-70, ending the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak. Suddenly, the national rankings were reversed, Notre Dame was No. 1 and UCLA No. 2.

In the first meeting, the Irish had overcome a 70-59 UCLA lead with 3:30 to go by holding the Bruins without a point. Walton had played, wearing a reinforced corset to protect a broken bone in his back. He scored 24 points and had nine rebounds in his first game in two weeks. But when UCLA got its chance for revenge at Pauley, the Bruins did not miss it. Walton made 16 of 19 shots, scored 32 points and had 11 rebounds in a 94-75 victory.

So the Bruins had their 60th consecutive victory at Pauley. At that time, the UCLA team was also known as the Walton Gang, and on that day, the leader was, well, pumped up.

“I get pretty fired up for basketball games,” Walton said. “That’s one of the things I like about basketball, you can get really fired up and go out there and just let it all go. You can show your emotions. It’s a total physical, psychological and mental release. It is one that I just really miss releasing.

“Even in practice at Pauley, you had to have the attitude that the person you are practicing against is the best in the world. Coach Wooden was able to get that across to us. We believed him . . . and we still believe him.

“There were just so many players around who had phenomenal athletic ability and Coach Wooden was just molding us all into fine young basketball players. The enthusiasm and the optimism and the whole atmosphere and attitude that surrounded the team--we were expected to win the championship and not winning every game would be considered a failure. That was the feeling we got in Pauley or just hanging around Coach Wooden.

“He is an unbelievably special person. You know, you look at him and you watch him and you live with the guy during the season. You see all this greatness about him and he’s always coming up with something better. He was perfect for me.

“Pauley Pavilion was, by far, the nicest building in the country for college basketball. The first time I went was one of Kareem’s last games. My older brother and I went up there together. He went up there on a recruiting trip. My brother, Bruce, played football at UCLA and I sort of tagged along. I was a junior (in high school). You know, UCLA was recruiting me, but this wasn’t an official visit or anything. When I walked inside, I just said, ‘Hey, I want to do this--this looks perfect for me.’

“There was no hesitation or doubt in my mind that UCLA was where I wanted to go. And Pauley Pavilion played such a big part in that. Of course, Coach Wooden played a much bigger part.”

Walton, 37, lives near San Diego and spends most of his time doing charity work and being with his four sons, who are 14, 12, 9, and 8.