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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Olson returns to say goodbye to seniors

    Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill shakes hands with head coach Lute Olson during yesterdays Senior Day festivities after the Wildcats 68-66 loss to the No. 4 UCLA mens basketball team. It was Olsons first public appearance in McKale Center this season after taking a leave of absense Nov. 4.
    Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill shakes hands with head coach Lute Olson during yesterday’s Senior Day festivities after the Wildcats’ 68-66 loss to the No. 4 UCLA men’s basketball team. It was Olson’s first public appearance in McKale Center this season after taking a leave of absense Nov. 4.

    Lute Olson has spent the season in the shadows while attending to a personal issue, never venturing into McKale Center to watch a game.

    The UA head coach returned to the floor yesterday afternoon to give the Arizona seniors their jerseys and congratulate them during a postgame ceremony.

    For senior Jawann McClellan, the combination of the appearance of his mentor and former coach Olson, playing his last game in McKale and not having his dad – who died during the summer of 2005 – in the audience made for quite an emotional day.

    “”I didn’t want to go out like this,”” McClellan said in reference to Arizona’s 68-66 loss to No. 4 UCLA. “”Obviously my dad not being here to watch me play took a toll on me, and I’m just going to miss being here.””

    Tears streamed down the face of McClellan, who said he got more emotional after seeing Olson and eventually blew a kiss toward the sky. He received the loudest ovation from the crowd, which also honored guard Daniel Dillon, forwards Bret Brielmaier and Mohamed Tangara and center Kirk Walters.

    As McClellan was starting to walk away after embracing Olson, the coach would not let him go.

    “”We go back to when he was recruiting me, and of course we’re close,”” McClellan said. “”Of course I’m going to miss him.””

    Walters said he reflected on his five years in the program while he was on the floor, a time in which he has seen the Senior Day ceremony play out time and time again.

    Both Walters and Dillon said it was great to have Olson take part because of what he’s meant to them during their years in the program.

    “”He’s recruited all of us, we’ve known him, so he needed to be out there, and it was great to get him out there,”” Walters said.

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill, who has been named Olson’s successor and has called himself a caretaker for this year’s team, said he felt “”very comfortable”” having Olson take part in the festivities.

    O’Neill also denied a CBS report before the game that said Olson and him were not on good terms.

    “”There is no problem at all between Lute and I, and my relationship with Lute is my relationship with Lute,”” he said. “”I’m comfortable with my relationship, have been ever since I worked here the last time.

    “”I think that there will probably be a lot of speculation around our situation as we go into March here because everybody’s going to be wondering what’s going on and is Coach coming back, isn’t he coming back, all those kinds of things.””

    But for one day, the focus was on the seniors leaving the program, not on who would be leading it in the coming year.

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