Our Stories: Why Miss Val felt 'beyond honored' when UCLA unveiled the Valorie Kondos Field Floor at Pauley Pavilion
For 37 years, I have walked onto the floor of Pauley Pavilion in awe of the numerous icons that have tread the same path. From the Dalai Lama, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to all of the gymnasts in the 1984 Olympic Games, to George W. Bush, Justin Bieber and our own great John Wooden; not to mention all of the great female gymnasts I’ve had the privilege of coaching on that same floor.
In December 2003, the floor was named the Nell and John Wooden Court. For years, Coach Wooden came to every single gymnastic meet in Pauley. I remember a meet in 2005 when Coach was 95 years old. We were warming up for the competition, and I saw Coach walking into the arena by himself. Where was Kenny Washington, his alum player who always drove him? Where was Nan, Coach’s daughter who was always part of the posse? I asked my husband to go help Coach to his seat and ask where everyone else was. Coach replied, “They were late, so I drove myself.” What?!? Uhhhhh Coach, you’re 95 years old and you really shouldn’t drive anymore.
A few minutes later, Kenny and Nan walked in and met Coach at their seats. After the meet, my husband told Coach he would drive him home and I’d follow in our car and bring Bobby back to our house. To which coach replied: “I got myself here, I can get myself home.” Thankfully, he conceded and we made sure Coach got home safely.
Although many legendary icons have walked on the floor of Pauley Pavilion, the only memories that flood my senses when I step on that court are those of Coach Wooden. While shared with many, Pauley Pavilion was Coach Wooden’s home. On March 16, 2019, my last home competition, our Athletic Director, Dan Guerrero, made a passionate speech of the impact I’ve had on the gymnastics community and UCLA. He mentioned that I had changed the artistry and dynamic of collegiate gymnastics floor routines. And that it was only fitting for the Valorie Kondos Field Miss Val floor mat to forever sit upon the floor of Coach Wooden’s floor at every gymnastics meet. I was floored (please forgive the pun).
— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) March 16, 2019
As I mentioned in the press conference after the meet, I have always thought of Pauley Pavilion as Coach Wooden’s home. And now I am beyond honored to feel that it is mine as well.
Valorie Kondos Field (@OfficialMissVal) is a seven-time NCAA champion coach with UCLA gymnastics. Watch the final part of her story May 5 at 5:15 p.m. PT/ 6:15 p.m. MT on "Our Stories" on Pac-12 Network.