For the first time since 1948, UCLA will not be under the watchful eye of John Wooden to start a basketball campaign.
The legendary coach died at the age of 99 in June in Los Angeles. The famous den from his apartment has been recreated just steps from Pauley Pavilion, and another honor will be in effect Friday night. Nobody will sit in Section 103B, Row 2, Seat 1 when the Bruins take on Cal State Northridge in the season opener.
That seat was reserved for Wooden, and though he didn't attend many games last season, he was a fixture since his retirement in 1975.
"I definitely looked at him when he was at the games," junior guard Jerime Anderson said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "It's hard not to notice that Coach Wooden is there."
Coach Ben Howland told the Times that Wooden "was at all the games my first six seasons," fulfilling the request of every autograph seeker at halftime.
Junior guard Malcolm Lee said his presence will be missed.
"That's why we're going into this season in memory of his name and trying to get this team back on the right track," Lee said, according to the newspaper.
No matter what, all Bruins teams live in Wooden's shadow. Wooden captured 10 championships between 1964-75. UCLA has won one since in 1995.
But that isn't to say the team hasn't had success. Last year was down season for the Bruins at 14-18, but UCLA has gone to three Final Fours and played in one title game in Howland's seven seasons.
Howland plans to increase the tempo this season. Top returning players Tyler Honeycutt, Anderson and Lee will lead the charge. Newcomers Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith should contribute more as the season progresses. But only time will tell if the effort behind honoring Wooden adds up to more wins this season.