Coach Wooden and the O.J. Simpson Painting
The following story was told to me by Mike Warren, starting point guard on three consecutive UCLA championship teams.
There’s a great story that Coach told me about an Andy Warhol painting of O.J. Simpson that was in the Wooden Center. Why it was hanging in the Center was beyond Coach Wooden’s comprehension. This was quite a while after O.J. was found not guilty in the murder trial of his wife, Nicole, and Ronald Goldman. Coach was talking to the Wooden Center’s Manager and he expressed his displeasure with OJ’s picture being there.
“It doesn’t make much sense, do you think, to have OJ Simpson’s picture in the Wooden Center?”
The manager said, “Coach, you’re probably right but I don’t have the power to put up or take down anything.”
The Coach replied, “Do you think it would be easier to take down OJ’s painting or my name off of the building?”
“Coach, I’ll look into it right away.” A short while later, Coach was at an event where the UCLA Chancellor at the time, Albert Carnesale, was also present and not too far away. In a voice just loud enough for Albert to hear, the Coach went on a rampage talking about OJ’s picture being in the Wooden Center and how it didn’t make any sense to have it up. He went on and on about how displeased he was that it wasn’t taken down.
Again, he pulls out his trump card question. “Do you think it would be easier to remove OJ’s painting or my name?” He never once looked at the Chancellor but his words were definitely heard.
A day or so later, Coach saw the Center’s manager again. “Coach, did you know I took down OJ’s painting.” “No, I didn’t know but it looks like someone agreed with me.”
Later, Coach saw Albert Carnesale at another function and, excitedly, the chancellor said to the Coach, “John, the other week at the (he named the function), were you specifically talking to me about the OJ’s painting and not necessarily to the person you were conversing with?” Wooden never answered but Albert did see that little twinkle that Coach usually gave when he had put something over on someone.