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My Recollections of Pauley Pavilion

A Geezer Looks Back at the House that Wooden Built

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pauley Pavilion just turned 50. This event generated a lot of retrospective articles, and this is just one more. Bruins, especially younger Bruins, should read these. It will help give you a better understanding of why some of us remain so passionate about a school even though most of the players on the teams hadn't been born when we were last on campus. After the famous campus flood a few years ago, there was an AP article by Beth Harris posted on which detailed some of the events in Pauley's history. Specifically, it mentions the last basket before the renovation by Coach's grandson Tyler Trapani and I suggest that if you can watch that without a little bit of emotion then you're not a real Bruin. (I've never articulated a litmus test for Bruin-ness before, but I'm comfortable with this one. So there it is.)

I am a UCLA basketball fan. I'm not a basketball fan in general. I don't sit glued to the TV all week to make sure I get to see Alabama State play Concordia. I am a UCLA basketball fan. I got hooked when I was in high school. I watched the Bruins beat Cal on TV in 1963 and it looked so easy. My first game was watching us play Creighton at some arena in Long Beach. Creighton's center was Paul Silas, who at 6'7" was taller than our center.

I started at UCLA in September of 1964. My first home basketball game was at the Sports Arena. I never liked that place, probably because of its proximity to just$c. Plus it was just a crummy place. It was used as a backdrop for the dystopian society in "THX 1138," and it was perfect for that. But it was a crappy place to go for a "home" game.

I first saw Pauley only subliminally during my freshman year. I commuted from Lynwood that year, and parked on Veteran as close to Strathmore as I could get, then I rode my bike (which in the pre-bike rack days, had been crammed into the back seat of my sister's 54 Chevy) up and down Strathmore to campus. Right across Gayley was where the edifice was being built, but what I remember more than that was the old bungalows that got moved. One had a sign saying "Department of Archeology." I never learned if that was for real or just a testament to the age of the building, and frankly I don't really want to know. I like to think that our version of Indiana Jones worked there.

I went past Pauley as it was being built. The UCLA Newsroom has some construction and groundbreaking photos of Pauley as does the UCLA Faculty Association.

There was a lot of excitement on campus 50 years ago. We were two-time defending basketball champions, and we had our eyes on a third championship. After all, Coach was our coach. Our team was rated number 1 going into the season, with Edgar Lacey, Mike Lynn, Mike Warren and a cast of thousands. Oh, yeah -- we had a pretty good incoming freshman team with Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen (still the best guard I have ever seen at UCLA or anywhere else) and Lynn Shackleford among others.

We had crowded into the B.O. Barn (maximum capacity 1,500 by order of the fire marshal, and I'm sure there were twice that many people there) to watch that new kid from New York play a pick up game. Remember at that time that anyone who was over 6'5" was generally clumsy and was certainly slow. Then we saw Lew grab a rebound, dribble the length of the court and lay the ball in. We were looking forward to the opening game at Pauley - the Bruins against the BruBabes.

Lots of us were there, and it was a slaughter. It was 75--60, but the varsity never really had a chance. Lew had 31 points and 21 rebounds against the defending champions. It was a fact that the UCLA varsity team was ranked number one in the country, but was number two on campus.

So the basketball fires were raging. We had an on campus stadium that was wonderful. I took Beginning Basketball and Intermediate Basketball along with tons of other kids, and we got to play our games in Pauley. (It's still hard to imagine that I shot hoops in that building.) We had a great varsity team and a greater freshman team. Even more, we were going to host a regional game. I was one of a zillion who bought a ticket for that game as soon as they went on sale. Alas, things broke down. We played tough road games (two losses early in the year at Duke (yes, we played back to back road games then), and some other tough road losses. We ended the season with a four game winning streak, but we ended up in second place, and in those days, that meant staying home. Oregon State, who we beat 79 to 35 at Pauley, won the championship. I remember the disappointment of watching that really lousy team (sorry, Scotty, but it's true) play at Pauley in the regional.

The next three years were spent a long distance from Pauley, keeping democracy safe. When I returned from the Army, we had another freshman phenom, this kid named Bill Walton. Here's a story which includes a little about his first game at Pauley, which didn't go quite the same way that Kareem's went. (Thanks to Larry Stewart and for that one.) I have no recollection of that game, and I'm glad to have that hole in my memory filled in.

That season - Walton's freshman season - was the last of the "Between Years." Those years between Alcindor and Walton were supposed to be the years that everyone would finally take revenge, but it didn't work that way. We still had Coach, and we had Wicks, Rowe, Patterson and Bibby (and yes, I've forgiven Bibby for losing his way for a while). I had the best job imaginable during Walton's freshman year. I worked as an usher at Pauley. The freshman game was at 6:00, the varsity game started at 8:00, and the doors to Pauley opened at 5:00. Those 300 seconds between 5:00 and 5:05 were fascinating. At 5:00:01, there was a distant rumbling sound. At 5:00:10, the first students could be seen racing for the student section. The next four or five minutes were pure pandemonium. Then by 5:05 or maybe a minute or two later, things were somewhat settled down, and the entire student section, from the floor to the rafters, was completely full. Absolutely, positively, completely full. The geezers remember this. I just wish I could somehow transport you newer Bruins back to that time for one game. You would never forget it. We have never forgotten it. (This was before our expectations started getting managed.)

Lots of things have happened since then. We lost our beloved Coach. (I will leave this paragraph a very short one. I don't want to add any other subject here.)

Pauley has seen a lot. It has suffered, as we have all suffered, from an administration with neither passion, vision, nor common sense. Students almost suffered. In my research for this article, I read a comment from a current student who was quite eloquent in his praise for how nice the new Pauley looked, but that comment added "I've never actually seen a game in Pauley, but I got to take a tour." That sounds a lot like getting a brand new sports car and spending all your time reading the owner's manual. It also sounds like Director Guerrero has succeeded in managing this kid's expectations -- this poor guy thinks Pauley is a wonderful looking building. I always thought it was more than that. I always thought that it was a symbol of greatness and success as Coach described it.

It would be nice if someone in the current crop of Bruins were to catch this same thing that so many of us geezers caught. Maybe that will happen - here's a relatively recent piece about the state of UCLA Basketball from Owen Rothman on Would you believe that the writer is a high school senior? I want that kid to go to UCLA. He'll catch the spirit, I'm sure.