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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Students react to fallout between Olson, O’Neill”

    Kevin ONeill
    Kevin O’Neill

    After Lute Olson returned to his throne as the boss of the Arizona men’s basketball team last week and said yesterday Kevin O’Neill wouldn’t return as his assistant next season, UA students expressed their thoughts about the situation.

    Some sided with Olson, 73, who has been the Wildcats’ head coach since the 1983-84 season. Others said O’Neill did a fine job as the team’s interim head coach, leading it to a 19-15 record and Arizona’s 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – the longest active streak and just three years shy of North Carolina’s all-time record of 27.

    “”I enjoyed seeing Kevin O’Neill step in because, ever since coming here after that whole Illinois debacle, I’ve been pretty disappointed with Olson and our team,”” said Matt Kielty, a journalism senior, referring to an Elite Eight game in 2005 when Arizona lost to Illinois after leading by 15 with four minutes left. “”But when he stepped down, it was definitely weird to see as it continued to evolve.””

    Kielty said he liked the way the players handled the coaching change and to him, it seemed like the national media hyped up the situation too much.

    “”But even so,”” Kielty said, “”the team was able to overcome adversity.””

    Jarod Andersen, a political science freshman, also said O’Neill did a good job in the situation he was put in.

    “”He brought us back to our 24th straight (NCAA Tournament),”” Andersen said. “”That’s kind of a hard thing to live up to. …I think he did the best he could. We had so many injuries, it’s kind of hard to utilize the players you have when everyone’s
    getting injured.””

    And then there were some who expressed their dislike of O’Neill and said it was a relief to see that he would pack his bags and leave the program.

    “”It sucks for (O’Neill) because he’s following Lute Olson’s footsteps,”” said David Farkas, a business freshman. “”No matter what he did, people would have come down on him unless they won the national championship or something. You can never be as good as Lute Olson.””

    Heather Gomes, a pre-journalism freshman, and Napree Williams, an undeclared freshman, said they don’t know too much about the men’s basketball program but agreed anyone who’s been at the helm of a program for a quarter-century should have the final say as to who works under him.

    “”He’s been here so long with the school and the team that he should have the right to have whoever he wants (as his assistant),”” Gomes said.

    Kielty said he felt the same.

    “”Since Olson is contractually the head coach for the University of Arizona,”” Kielty said, “”I guess it’s fair for him to return and return to his duties and he can do what he wants.””

    Since O’Neill won’t be returning, the plan UA Athletics Director Jim Livengood put into place in December for O’Neill to succeed Olson was voided, and that’s OK with Farkas.

    “”I don’t care,”” Farkas said. “”I don’t like O’Neill that much. He’s nothing special. He didn’t bring anything to the team.””

    Kielty said there should be a succession plan in order, but he doesn’t think finding someone credible to take over will be a problem.

    “”Lute’s incredibly old and I would imagine he can’t go beyond like, two or three more years,”” Kielty said. “”I can’t imagine him going on after that. It seems like we had this guaranteed replacement to come in and now it’s all up in the air. But this is such a prestigious program that we can get someone. It’s going to be interesting to watch.””

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