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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Olson’s stroke creates closure, unification”

    All Madden

    Dr. Steven Knope sat at a table in McKale Center Tuesday with Jody Brase to his right, Christi Snyder to his left and Matt Brase to her left. Lute Olson’s personal doctor pressed his maroon tie flat against his chest and looked up at about two dozen sets of eyes staring back at him.

    He was about to create a movement.

    Everyone was hungry for answers from this man. After each person in the room swallowed hard, there was a hush throughout the media.

    “”What we’ve discovered over the past 24 hours is that Lute Olson had a stroke in the frontal part of his brain,”” Knope said.

    Exhale.

    There was finally a reason for so many unanswered questions.

    Finally, closure.

    Go back with me to last basketball season, when Kevin O’Neill said at the beginning of his temporary reign as the UA men’s basketball interim head coach that when Olson walks into a room, you sit up straight in your chair. It was trueÿ- not a conscious thing, it just happened. It was like a rod was slid up your spine and toothpicks were stuck in your eyelids.

    So naturally, when Olson walked into the Lohse Room of McKale on April 1, everyone became straight-spined, not knowing he was going to verbally spar with media members and announce that Kevin O’Neill would not become his successor. In fact, he wouldn’t even be on staff the following season.

    On Oct. 21, he returned to the same room, “”energized,”” ready for the upcoming basketball season and praising O’Neill. But two days later UA athletic director Jim Livengood announced Olson’s retirement.

    The rods in everyone’s collective spine melted. The toothpicks snapped. Heads were scratched and stomachs felt like there was an over-caffeinated rat inside them.

    The players, recruits, Tucson residents -ÿno one knew what to think of the past year. This wasn’t the legendary coach we all knew and loved.

    But then, alongside Olson’s daughters and grandson, Knope said that one syllable word: stroke. And with that, Olson Nation is coming together to give the man his respect.

    Sure, there were signs, banners, T-shirts and a video montage at this past weekend’s Homecoming game celebrating Olson’s career, but there was also cynicism about the coach’s age and how he’d lost his mind.

    It shouldn’t have taken a stroke to give Olson the respect he deserves, but with Tuesday’s newfound realization, there will be unification for the King of Tucson.

    It will be like the end of September 2001, when seemingly every car on the road had a flag clipped to their window or antenna. It shouldn’t have taken a national tragedy to unify America, but that’s how it happened.

    It shouldn’t have taken a stroke to make people respect Olson once again, but it did.

    Exhale.

    – Lance Madden is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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