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Fitting Conclusion to a Banner Season : UCLA: Bruins bring down the house by displaying the result of their latest championship.

April 06, 1995|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For a fitful few seconds, one side remained unfurled, and a deafening Pauley Pavilion crowd of about 13,000, patient at last, simply roared some more.

Then, as John Wooden and Mayor Richard Riordan looked on Wednesday evening, Tyus Edney got the wiring figured out, with some help from his teammates, and the banner signifying the UCLA Bruins' 1995 national championship tumbled from the wooden rod that held it rolled into place.

"It was a different color because it's been so long since we've won," senior forward Ed O'Bannon said after the 50-minute ceremony marking UCLA's first title since 1975. "But it was great, seeing it unfold and the crowd go crazy."

UCLA actually unfurled two banners, with a dark blue background and gold lettering, on each side of the Pauley scoreboard, and will find a permanent place for one of them in the rafters, alongside the 10 other, more-worn national title banners during the Wooden era.

And after hearing warm speeches from Chancellor Charles E. Young, who called this year's squad "the most dedicated to 'team' I have ever seen," Athletic Director Peter T. Dalis, and Coach Jim Harrick, who showed the crowd an Arkansas hog hat and said "we sliced them up like a side of ham," the team's three departing seniors admitted a mixture of joy and sadness.

"The only sad thing is not being able to keep playing here," said Edney, wearing a plastic splint on the right wrist that kept him to only 2 1/2 minutes in UCLA's title-winning effort over Arkansas on Monday night at the Seattle Kingdome. "I know I'm going to miss Ed and George (Zidek).

"I realized it's probably the last time I'll be cheered like this. It's kind of emotional."

Said Zidek: "I think I would need a doctor if I didn't get emotional when I saw the banner unfold."

For the seniors, the most important part was being present when the banners were unfurled.

"I've been around winning programs, and being around L.A., watching the Lakers, the banner, it comes around the following year, and some of the guys aren't around," O'Bannon said. "And that's what I was afraid of. I didn't know it would be this fast."

And, though O'Bannon's side fell down immediately, what did he think about Edney's struggles on the other side of the platform?

"That's all right," O'Bannon said, "he got it down."

The banner ceremony capped a frenetic 24 hours for the team once it returned from Seattle, that included a trip to "The Tonight Show" Tuesday night, a Disneyland visit earlier Wednesday and a talk from Wooden in the minutes before the start of the ceremony.

"It was great," O'Bannon said. "I mean, he's the king, he's the wizard. Any time you have a man of his caliber come in and humble himself and talk to you, that to me, is unreal.

"He said just, 'Great job and now you guys know what it feels like.' "

So, with the L.A. city council planning to honor them later this week and a possible trip to the White House being mentioned, when will all the celebration stop?

"Hopefully, not any time soon," O'Bannon said. "Personally, I've worked too hard to let it end within days. I'm going to milk this."

*

Tyus Edney said he is still planning to attend the NBA invitation-only camp for prospective draftees in Phoenix on April 17, despite his injured wrist, though he said he has another round of X-rays to undergo to determine the full extent of his injury.

"It's still a little sore, tender," Edney said, "but it's getting better."

*

Earlier in the day, the Bruins starred in a parade down Disneyland's "Main Street, U.S.A." and were honored at a ceremony by park executives.

"The best thing is we get to go to the front of the lines," Harrick said jokingly of the long waits other park-goers had to endure to go on the rides.

* Staff writer Steve Scheibal contributed to this story.

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