The mystery buyer of that early 1930s John Wooden Purdue basketball jersey turned out to be another pretty famous Boilermaker alumnus. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees revealed in a video that he had teamed up with a local collector/restaurant owner to win the auction and has turned the jersey over to the school where it will go on display.
The plan had been for Brees to be the surprise guest at a meet and greet in Jeffersonville, IN Tuesday night where he’d make the announcement but severe thunderstorms kept him grounded in the Peoria, IL airport. Instead, he recorded a video detailing his collaboration with Orlando Itin, owner of Bruno’s Swiss Inn in West Lafayette and his plans to give the jersey to his alma mater on permanent loan.
John Wooden’s #Purdue jersey is coming home.
— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) May 30, 2018
The jersey, given to an Indiana friend during one of Wooden’s trips to the Indiana state basketball tournament during his high school coaching days, sold for $264,000 via Heritage Auctions earlier this month. It set a record price for any college basketball jersey ever sold at pubic auction.
“My first words up on hearing that the John Wooden jersey would be made available to the public were ‘We have to get this for Purdue University’,” Brees recalled. “We knew that bidding would be hot and heavy. This jersey belongs in Mackey Arena back at Purdue.”
Can’t thank @drewbrees enough for bringing Coach Wooden’s jersey home. Excited to have it hang in Mackey Arena.
— Purdue’s Matt Painter (@CoachPainter) May 30, 2018
Itin is a long-time collector and Brees friend who, according to the Lafayette Courier-Journal, has shared Wooden-related items with Brees in the past and donated millions to the school. The six-figure jersey Wooden donned during an All-American career decades ago, was something special, though. Brees keeps a picture of Wooden in his Saints locker and gave Itin the go-ahead to bid what was needed to secure the jersey for the school.
The jersey arrived in West Lafayette last week via Federal Express.
A standout at Purdue from 1930 to 1932, Wooden was a three-time All-American and the 1932 National Player of the Year. As a senior, he averaged 12.2 points per game in leading the Boilermakers to a 17-1 record and the Big Ten Championship. Purdue was named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
Wooden went on to be the head coach at UCLA from 1948 to 1975, amassing a 620-147 record, an extraordinary .808 winning percentage. The Bruins captured 10 national championships, including seven in a row from 1966 to 1973, and 19 Pac-10 titles. They put together unfathomable winning streaks of 88 games and 38 NCAA Tournament contests.
A native of Martinsville, Indiana, Wooden is one of just three individuals enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (1961) and a coach (1973).