With its incessant cheering and roaring and eight-clapping, the Den in Pauley Pavilion offers one of the greatest fan experiences in collegiate sports. But there’s another den on campus that may even be more vaunted.

In 2010, not long after John Wooden’s passing, UCLA Athletics recreated the cluttered den from Coach’s Encino condo, piece for piece. The Wooden family generously donated almost all the contents for the Hall of Fame den: countless trophies and trinkets, mementos from world travels, photos of family and dignitaries. Even Coach’s treasured recliner made the trek to Westwood.

Walking into Wooden’s den today remains a powerful experience. It’s a visit not to an exhibit, but a shrine. “You felt like he was all yours, and yet when you went to the den and saw all of the memorabilia in his home, you realized just how much he belonged to the world,” UCLA basketball legend Jamaal Wilkes ’74 summed up for the Daily Bruin in 2010.

Here, a look inside Coach’s place, forever preserved.

Move the cursor to take a 360 tour of the Den:


Wooden was gifted this electric reclining chair by the family of UCLA gymnast Kristina Comforte ’10. In his later years, Coach watched Bruins football games from the chair; close by him was gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field ’87, with whom he had formed a tight bond. Read more about it in an emotional Q&A with “Miss Val.”


Wooden was awarded the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974, one year after the award’s creation. The honor was created in honor of Bunn, the first chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame Committee (1949–69). Wooden had already long been in the Hall, first as a player in 1960, then as a coach in 1973. To illustrate Coach’s wry feelings about the significance of awards, a wooden mallard still sits inside it.


While a Bruin through and through, Wooden also stayed loyal to his alma mater, Purdue, where he was a star player in the early 1930s. How much of a star? He was the first player ever to be named a three-time consensus All-American, and his 1931–32 Boilermakers squad was retroactively recognized as the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.


Wooden considered himself a teacher, first and foremost, and he always kept an apple on his desk to remind himself of that. Wooden got his start as a high school teacher and coach at Dayton High in Dayton, Kentucky, in 1932, while moonlighting as a professional basketball player in the National Basketball League.


Wooden was a legendary teacher, coach and mentor, but the role he treasured most was that of father. He and his beloved wife, Nell, had two children, Nancy (Nan) and James (Jim) Wooden. In 1964, Coach was honored as California Father of the Year by the National Father’s Day Committee.


Wooden was the author and co-author of several books, but none was more special to his family than the illustrated children’s books featuring the sunny characters Inch and Miles. “Nan Wooden used to always say that she was glad that Daddy wrote that [first] book, because she finally could understand the Pyramid of Success,” Kondos Field says.


A man of deep faith, Wooden had religious keepsakes sprinkled throughout his den, as well as tokens from his travels around the world. Basketball was an important part of his life, but it was not the most important. “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate,” he once said. “It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.”

Read UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2024 issue.