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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Editorial: Bidding farewell to a UA legend

    The world will end “”not with a bang but a whimper,”” T.S. Eliot once wrote. So it was with Lute Olson.

    Olson, whose retirement was announced Thursday, is far and away the UA’s most famous son. His fame is well deserved. There’s a good argument to be made that Olson is the best college basketball coach who ever lived.

    Arizona’s basketball team wasn’t much to write home about when Olson took over in 1983; they won 4 out of 28 games the year before. Three years after his arrival, the Wildcats took home their first Pacific 10 conference title.

    What followed was nothing less than astonishing. Olson took his Wildcats to four Final Fours. They won the NCAA National Championship in 1997. Olson was voted Pac-10 Coach of the Year no fewer than seven times. The list goes on.

    It doesn’t give us much pleasure to acknowledge that Olson’s retirement is slightly overdue. But it has to be said: Olson spent the last two years of his once-glorious career alternately frustrating and disappointing his fans.

    Last November, Olson went on a brief sabbatical, then abruptly announced that he would be gone for the rest of the season. Then, with equal abruptness, he returned in March, announcing that he intended to coach until his contract ran out in 2011.

    To top it off, Olson declared that he wasn’t interested in the three high school seniors interim head coach Kevin O’Neill had offered scholarships to. A month later, O’Neill – who’d been vetted as Olson’s eventual replacement – was out of there.

    We’re also troubled that Olson chose such an inopportune time to retire. Maybe it was always a little unlikely that the 74-year-old Olson would keep coaching until 2011. But he should have acknowledged that instead of letting his players and fans get excited about his return to full-time coaching. The new recruits, who came here expecting to be coached by Olson, have every right to feel disappointed.

    That said, there’s no need to dwell on this for too long. Olson arguably did more to bring glory to UA athletics than any other person. He fully deserves our respect and gratitude. When they write the history of college basketball, Lute Olson will loom large, and the last two years of his career won’t be more than a footnote.

    In a celebration of Olson on Thursday, Tucson Citizen columnist Anthony Gimino noted, in passing, that Lute didn’t swear. In a way, that sums it all up. In an age of such prima donnas as Bobby Knight, Olson retained an air of dignity and class.

    That’s the Lute Olson we’re going to remember.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Andi Berlin, Justyn Dillingham, Lauren LePage, Lance Madden and Nick Seibel.

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