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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Lute Olson talks Arizona Basketball

Chris Coduto
March 16, 2007 Head coach Lute Olson argues a call with an official during the second half of Arizona’s first round NCAA tournament game against Purdue, Friday March 16, 2007 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans. Arizona lost to Purdue 72-63.

Legendary UA hoops coach Lute Olson hasn’t manned the McKale Center sidelines in almost four years. But despite his retirement from the game, Olson still defines Arizona basketball.

He bleeds red and blue and hadn’t missed a home game since his retirement, until this past Saturday against Utah. Whether it’s by way of the 1997 National Championship banner in the rafters or his former recruits Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender on the floor, Olson’s presence is still felt every day in McKale Center.

The Daily Wildcat caught up with former coach Olson by phone on Sunday evening to get his take on this year’s team, head coach Sean Miller and Arizona’s NCAA Tournament chances.

On this year’s team: “I think they’ve made really good progress. I think coach Miller and his staff do a great job. (Saturday) was the only game that I’ve missed since I’ve retired. I was just concerned about making sure that we got over there early enough that we could watch the entire game. Luckily we did. It wasn’t looking good in the first half but I’m glad they pulled it out.”

On Sean Miller: “Coach Miller and his staff have worked really hard to get the program back up as evidenced by next year’s recruiting class that’s rated No. 1 in the country. What they’ve had a problem with this year is size. It’s just great to see that you bring in a 7-footer, a 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 guy. They’re still going to be freshmen (and) the fans need to understand that. They’re as excited as I am that this quality group is going to be coming into the Wildcat program. One of them is the son of Eric Cooper, who played at Arizona for me, which is exciting for me. I think everything’s going well.”

On whether Arizona is an NCAA Tournament team: “First they have to worry about the Pac-12 tournament. I know that the Pac-12 has been down but I think the Cats will be ready for the Pac-12 Tournament. I’m just really happy that the program is headed in the right direction. There’s no doubt in my mind that in two or three years they’re going to be a regular in the NCAA playoffs with the new recruits and the people they’ve got right now.”

On who he would like to coach on Arizona’s current roster: “Well we recruited a couple of the guys, Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender. I obviously like those guys because they were my guys. Solomon Hill is someone I’ve also watched for a long time and I really like the way Jesse Perry plays. He plays really hard and is always overmatched size-wise but makes up with it with his enthusiasm.”

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