ANAHEIM — Two Orange County businessmen were having dinner last year when the conversation turned to John Wooden.
That was no surprise. One, Randy Ryan, is a former vice chairman of the John R. Wooden Awards, and the other, J.T. Visbal, is a longtime admirer of the legendary UCLA coach. What could be done, they wondered, to help further perpetuate the Wooden legacy?
The idea that sprang to life was a college basketball event called the John R. Wooden Classic. And a little more than seven months later, the two announced Tuesday that the first Classic has been scheduled Dec. 3 at Anaheim Arena.
The doubleheader will feature Kansas against Massachusetts and UCLA against Kentucky. The Bruins and Wildcats have not met since the 1975 NCAA final, which marked Wooden's final game as a coach and his 10th national title. NBC will televise both games, the first starting at 10:30 a.m. (PST).
Wooden was on the dais along with three of his most famous former players--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Michael Warren--for Tuesday's announcement.
"I'm flattered and proud," he said in his typical low-key style. "You have to keep your ego in the proper perspective, but I'm glad they saw fit to name this event in my honor. I think it can become something very worthwhile."
The last seven months have been busy for Ryan, who will be the event's president, and Visbal, who will be executive vice president.
"Within a couple of days of our conversation, Randy had talked to Coach Wooden about it," Visbal said. "The ball was really rolling down hill after that. I resigned from my (advertising) company and went to work full time on it." Ryan became involved with Wooden though his friendship with Richard (Duke) Llewellyn, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and national chairman of the Wooden awards program.
"We're very excited that we're able to bring an event of this type to Anaheim and Orange County," said Ryan, who grew up in Anaheim. "We had many other arenas contacting us, but we felt it was very important to have the event in Southern California, where Coach Wooden's family can attend. . . . And we consider the Anaheim Arena the premier arena in the country."