This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Courtly tribute to the Woodens

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Courtesy of UCLA Development Office
John Wooden and Nell, his late wife of 53 years, will be honored at the arena where he groomed eight of his 10 championship teams.

UCLA will pay permanent tribute to the John Wooden era on Saturday, Dec. 20, when the basketball floor in Pauley Pavilion will be named the Nell and John Wooden Court in honor of the legendary former coach and his late wife of 53 years.

Chancellor Albert Carnesale will take part in a naming ceremony before the 3:30 p.m. tip-off of UCLA’s nationally televised game with Michigan State. All former Bruin basketball players, dating back to Wooden’s first UCLA season in 1948, have been invited. Several of Wooden’s great-grandchildren will unveil the newly painted names on the north and south sides of the court.

Wooden also will be feted by family members and former players at a private pregame luncheon on campus.

The inclusion of Nell Wooden in the naming festivities comes at the request of the retired coach. His wife, who passed away in 1985, was a fixture behind the UCLA team bench at Bruin games.

“Coach Wooden built an incomparable legacy as a superb teacher, a transforming figure in his sport and a shaper of young lives,” Carnesale said. “We are delighted to recognize John and Nell Wooden, both great Bruins, by naming the court that witnessed their extraordinary success at UCLA.”

Wooden concluded his 27-year UCLA coaching career after the Bruins’ victory over Kentucky in the 1975 national championship game. It was his 10th NCAA title in a 12-year span highlighted by consecutive 30-0 records in 1971-72 and 1972-73, and 28 straight NCAA tournament wins.

Pauley Pavilion, which opened in 1965, was the home arena for eight of Wooden’s championship teams.

Wooden celebrated his 93rd birthday in October. In May, student leaders honored him on the 20th anniversary of UCLA’s John Wooden Recreation Center, and in July, President George W. Bush awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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