Author: Tim Grant
I grew up in Camarillo in the early 70s, farm country an hour’s drive north of LA. After our high school games on Friday nights we’d go out to pizza and then end up at my house at 11 pm to watch the Bruin game replay. It was never shown live so we all avoided the radio and no one knew the outcome so it was like watching live. Of course, it was with John Wooden so we did “know” the outcome most times! We were all Bruin fans and many of those who attended other schools kept UCLA as their adopted team.
I was then on campus for Wooden’s last 2 years at UCLA. We all thought he would go on for another ten. A student season pass was $5, and I went to nearly every home game. The student section was all festival seating from mid-court to the baseline across the floor from the team (the good old days). We had an incredible home and away rivalry with Notre Dame every year, and in 1974, they were ranked #2 when they broke our 88 game streak in South Bend on January 17th. The only time they led the game was at the final buzzer.
A week later was the rematch at Pauley Pavilion. Notre Dame was now #1, and we were #2. I wanted to make sure I had the best seat possible at Pauley for the revenge game. To do that, about 400 of us slept outside overnight to be at the front of the line for the rush to the seats. I was #16 and got a seat at the half-court line, about 5 rows up.
The first half was ugly. Notre Dame was kicking our butt, and we couldn't figure out how they had our number. They had a 19 point lead at halftime, and we were in shock. But then it happened. From the second-half tip off until the end of the game, the entire student section and I think 90% of the arena never sat down. The Bruins went on an epic run and outscored the Irish by 38 points in the second-half winning going away 94 to 85. I've never heard cheering so loud and passionate for 45 straight minutes. It was an incredible scene to be a part of.
Coach would lead the Bruins to the Final Four that year, and in 1975, his final season at UCLA, win his 10th national championship, beating Kentucky 92-85.
The video below captures the final moments of that game and Wooden's thoughts (starting at the 1:55 mark).
For More on Wooden and UCLA
Check out The Wisdom of Wooden, which is featured in our list of Best Basketball Books.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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