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Friends, players honor UCLA coach John Wooden

June 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former players and friends of late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden recalled bittersweet memories of the icon at Pauley Pavilion Saturday at a public memorial.The service was held at Pauley Pavilion, where close to 6,000 people packed in to honor the legendary coach.

But one special seat remained empty and roped off. Section 103B, row 2, seat 1 was Wooden's habitual seat at the stadium after he retired. UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero announced that seat as being officially retired.

"From this day forward, coach's seat will be retired. It is his seat and no one else will ever sit there." said Guerrero, who was on the school's baseball team during Wooden's coaching tenure at the school.

Former Bruins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes and Keith Erickson spoke at the memorial service, as did UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and current UCLA head basketball coach Ben Howland. Also, broadcasting icons Dick Enberg and Vin Scully shared their memories of Wooden via video.

"It's fair to say we will never see his likes again," Scully said. "Goodnight, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Famed telecaster Al Michaels served as the master of ceremonies at the memorial.

"Through it all he never wavered from his core values," he said. "His life was built on an indestructible, unshakable foundation."

Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles, and seven of those championships were consecutive between 1967 and 1973.

Wooden began his career at UCLA in 1948 and won 620 games before retiring in 1975.

After retiring from coaching, Wooden had more success as an author and speaker, and he remains highly respected by UCLA students. "Let's balance that deep grief with the joy of having known this man," said Wilkes as he choked up. "The life that he lived, the love that he gave us all, the legacy he left."

Those in attendance gathered after the memorial to continue speaking about the beloved coach.

"Anybody who left there with a dry eye, I would be surprised," Howland said. "It certainly was emotional."

Wooden died June 4 at the age of 99.

CNS contributed to this report.


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