LOS ANGELES —
Even when UCLA men’s basketball shone the brightest, there was always a simple charm to the Bruins’ Pauley Pavilion home when you watched a game there from afar.
There was nothing particularly special about the arena as seen on TV. It had a simple blue color scheme on the sidelines, baselines and in the lanes. And the familiar interlocking dual U-C-L-A wrapped around the center circle.
It was no frills, which belies the splendor of UCLA’s campus in the ritzy Bel-Air section of Los Angeles.
The frills were saved for the players on the floor. From Walt Hazzard to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor in his UCLA days) to Bill Walton to Reggie Miller and so many more, the Bruins are the standard-bearers of college basketball. With 11 national championships, 10 won by iconic coach John Wooden, Pauley Pavilion is where most of the magic happened.
And now, it will have the bells and whistles befitting a program of UCLA’s stature.
UCLA has spent $136 million to renovate the facility, which opened in 1965 and which is named after former University of California regent Edwin W. Pauley. Capacity was increased by 1,000 to 13,800 and there are fancy new video boards, a 154-percent increase in rest rooms, 100 television monitors and an atrium honoring UCLA’s storied history.
UCLA has not played in the building since the last home game of the 2011 season. The Bruins decamped to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and the Honda Center in Anaheim for the 2011-12 season.
But for all of the modern enhancements, UCLA saw fit to turn to the past when it choose its opponent to open the building. Wooden came to UCLA by way of Indiana State, and in a nod to both schools’ past, the Sycamores were chosen to open the building.
“Mr. Prettyman [Ron Prettyman, ISU director of athletics] knew the A.D. out there [Dan Guerrero], but it’s more along the lines of they have the Wooden statue, they named the court after John and Nell Wooden, which we’ve done here. It’s an honor,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Lansing is an admirer of Wooden, as most coaches are. He has a portrait of Wooden in his ISU office.
It was not your average season-opening game.
Private ceremonies were to begin two hours before game time. Doors opened to the public 90 minutes before tipoff and UCLA encouraged ticket holders — the game is sold out — to be in their seats 30 minutes prior to tipoff. Several UCLA icons were expected to take part.
“I obviously followed them and know tons about all of [UCLA’s legendary players]. I hope a bunch of them are there, which I think they will be,” Lansing said.
Through all of this, ISU still had a game to play. The current 13th-ranked Bruins — with super freshmen Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and possibly Shabazz Muhammad (if cleared by the NCAA) — make the game hard enough.
“You look at the history of things and, yeah, it’s an honor to play in this game, but we have to go into it with focus and control what we can control,” Lansing said.
ISU has lost its last three games against ranked teams — two to Creighton and one to Wichita State last season — but the Sycamores won their last game against a ranked nonconference opponent. The Sycamores defeated No. 25 Vanderbilt 72-64 on Dec. 17, 2011.