When UCLA plays Arizona on Saturday, it will be the end of the Bruins' home slate for this season and also the end of an era.
Pauley Pavilion will undergo a remodeling project next season, forcing the Bruins to play home games elsewhere, so the game against Arizona will be the last in the "the old" Pauley. The next time UCLA plays there the Bruins will find a modernized version with updated locker rooms and facilities, redesigned seating arrangements, new concourse and lobby areas and a revamped exterior.
Pauley Pavilion has been UCLA's home since the 1965-66 season, and the home floor for such Bruins greats as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes and Reggie Miller.
Current NBA All-Stars Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook also played their college home games at Pauley and the Bruins went to 15 Final Fours and won nine of their 11 NCAA titles while using Pauley as their home court, including seven in a row under coach John Wooden.
"It’s great playing there," said junior guard Malcolm Lee. "Going on the court every time and just looking up and seeing all the banners and stuff. It’s a real historical arena and I just want to end the last two games playing in there with wins."
The women's basketball team and men's volleyball team still have home games left at Pauley, but this is the house Wooden built so the sendoff party takes place Saturday for the 1 p.m. game against Arizona.
The school has asked fans to create a "blue out" by wearing blue shirts, the team will wear retro 1964 jerseys and the 1971 NCAA championship team will be honored at halftime. Also, Pauley's greatest moments will be shown on the video board.
Fans will be allowed on the floor after the game to take photographs and all in attendance will receive a commemorative Pauley Pavilion ticket and a copy of Wooden's Pyramid of Success.
UCLA doesn't have any seniors on this season's team, but for juniors Lee, Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson, this will be the last home game at Pauley. Even sophomores Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson and freshman Joshua Smith -- all considered pro prospects -- may be playing their last games in Pauley.
"I’m bummed that I’m not going to get to play in the new arena, but I feel good that I actually got to play in there at all," Jones said. "It’s such a great place. You can see the history when you walk in, you can just feel it in the air. It was a great experience to be able to play in there at least once."
Even if Nelson and Honeycutt and some of the other underclassmen return for the 2012-13 season, this game marks the last in the building as Wooden knew it, and that makes it a sentimental occasion.
"I feel privileged to be able to play there for two years," Nelson said.
Next year, UCLA will play home games off campus. The school is still negotiating with several venues and recently sent a survey to fans to gauge interest in location preference.
The Forum in Inglewood had been the preferred choice, but new ownership plans to renovate that arena next year, too, so UCLA is considering the Sports Arena, the Honda Center in Anaheim, Staples Center, Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield and Valley View Casino Center in San Diego (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena).
Because many of those venues are not available for the entire season, the Bruins will likely use a combination of them for their home games in 2011-12.
"Hopefully we can turn it into a road show for a year to whatever venue we’re going to be playing in," coach Ben Howland said last week. "I know there’s a number of different places we may be playing."
Still, while it's a sentimental moment to play in the old Pauley for the last time and it will be a hassle to play home games off campus next year, Howland said it will all be worth it when the building reopens.
"Long term it’s really important that what’s being done with Pauley is happening, so it’s very exciting," Howland said.