UCLA Celebrates Wooden's 100th Birthday

by Ryan Eshoff

Nan Wooden had the shortest speech of the evening, but she said the most.

On the night UCLA hosted a 100th birthday celebration for deceased coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood's daughter delivered the words that summed up the night.

"We love you Daddy!" Nan said, accompanied by thunderous applause by the hundreds in attendance at UCLA's — Where else? — John Wooden Center.

The Westwood campus hosted a day-long celebration to honor the legendary basketball coach, who passed away in June at the age of 99.

As part of the ceremony, artist Tom Pinch presented a portrait of the coach that will sit on a wall in the Wooden Center. The evening's keynote speaker was former UCLA player Keith Erickson, who Wooden once described as the most athletic player he had ever coached.

Among other memories, the former Bruin read from a replica of a card that Wooden carried with him at all times, a card that featured a number of Wooden's favorite life lessons.

"I think that if we all can learn to follow some of those lessons - and be more like Coach - we can make this world a better place," Erickson said.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero revealed a number of new tributes that the university has planned for Wooden. According to Guerrero, the under-construction Pauley Pavilion - home of UCLA basketball - was originally going to have its groundbreaking ceremony in concordance with Wooden's 100th birthday. Although the renovations to the arena have yet to be completed, Guerrero did rededicate the project to Wooden.

Additionally, the UCLA athletic department will unveil a replica of Wooden's famous den - site of many personal interviews in his Encino home - to be placed in the Bruins' Hall of Fame.

Bruin basketball coaches Nikki Caldwell and Ben Howland also shared words, and introduced their 2010-2011 teams.

"What a great night," Howland said. "It's so great to see the Wooden family here, and we're glad we can celebrate the man that Coach Wooden was, a man who we all miss."