Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
For Mrs. Bald, this is one of her favorite evenings of the year. Much changed this year from years past but the vibe was still the same-lots of supporters celebrating the Bruin tradition of winning and excellence. Here are some observations and thoughts from the night.
Next up was CRN. First, one of my favorite parts of the dinner was watching CRN work the room. There were about 25 tables and he visited with everyone. He was clearly the maitre'd of the evening. We joked that the reason there was no more golf outings with him and a guest was because of something I may have done. Mrs. Bald thinks I spoiled it for everyone else. Anyway, CRN spoke about how successful we've been recruiting the past couple of years and how it will be meaningless if we don't prove ourselves on the field against the Trojans this December at the Rose Bowl. He spoke about how if a recruit doesn't figure out what a special place UCLA is after his tour, they're just not smart enough to come to the school. He joked about his pitch to recruits - the fact that he met his wife while at UCLA and several other young coeds that are no longer discussed out of respect for Mrs. Neuheisel. Then a quick jab from Everett about the whereabouts of his guitar.
All the interviews were conducted on a pair of couches up on stage with UCLA in lights as the backdrop. Next up on Everett's couch was CBH. He spoke about how excited he was to get back and return the program to greatness. He spoke about how great it was to have Coach Mathews on staff and what great coaches he had. The best message from CBH was that while we had five solid recruits, they weren't done yet. There were a "few recruits we are still pursuing that we can't talk about", which started a Ware twins buzz at our table.
There were several Bruin athletes (old and current) in attendance. Jamaal Wilkes, James Washington, Mike Warren, Jason Kapona, Malcolm Lee and Russell Westbrook. A couple of stories. Jamaal grabbed RW as he passed near our table and RW was genuinely please to see the ex Bruin/Laker great and they spent a few moments talking. Jamaal was auctioning off a dinner with him and Bill Walton for the winner and a guest - Jamaal was very funny, poking fun at Walton's tendency to talk too much and that we were going to make Bill pay b/c he wasn't here tonight.
The only Bruin besides CRN I interacted with was Malcolm Lee during the silent Auction. He was circling the room when I approached him and relayed the following message: "Love your game Malcolm. The NBA riches can wait. You have some unfinished business here at UCLA and it will take two years to complete." While I didn't get a direct confirmation that he would stay for 2 years, his response left me feeling more confident that he will remain through his senior year. Hope springs eternal.
- The dinner was much more polished than in years past. Sit down dinner vs. buffet with dimmed lighting, a full service bar and slick couch seating around the volleyball gym in the Wooden Center. I liked the new format, but Ms. Bald thought it was a bit too slick. We understood they were trying create an environment where they could raise more $ in the live auction. The jury is still out on whether they succeeded.
- The silent auction had a little something for every fan. There was great signed memorabilia (helmets, balls and pictures, and some strange items as well ( slightly purple and gold, women's FUR jacket with a UCLA emblem, a UCLA bbq mat, and several red UCLA shirts along with the ever-popular (seriously) swimmers robe!) There was even a box of frosted corn flake cereal with CRN's picture on it and signed by him which the wife and I purchased for our den which already has several other random things we've purchased in the past (ie the UCLAvsUSC chess set signed by many past coaches!!). While many items never received a single bid, the one that stood out to me that went untouched was the signed J'rue Holliday photo. Speaks volumes.
- The event was hosted by Matt Stevens and Chris Roberts. I'm one of those in the "can't stand" Chris Roberts court. I find him incredibly annoying and painful to listen to which made the live auction tough on me. Thankfully, in-between auctioning off items, Special Guest, Neil Everett, was there to interview some important Bruins in attendance. First up was Dan Guerrero. He spoke about the expanding NCAA basketball tourney size and the importance of expansion and how he didn't see the final bracket last year until after it was released to the public. His best UCLA memory was the first time he put on a jersey, the same one Jackie Robinson wore.
We picked up a three pack of dodger hats in UCLA blue and gold for our boys and I also won a great black and white framed photo of Gary Beban handing off to a tailback at the Coliseum vs. UCLA that will also get hung in the den.
I didn't get to connect with any BN members, but maybe next year.