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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Olson should follow Knight’s suit

    Arizona head coach Lute Olson watches from the sidelines in the Wildcats 102-87 victory on Nov. 19, 2006 in McKale Center. Olson is on a full years paid leave of absence, while one of his legendary coaching counterparts, Bobby Knight announced his resignation from Texas Tech on Monday.
    Arizona head coach Lute Olson watches from the sidelines in the Wildcats’ 102-87 victory on Nov. 19, 2006 in McKale Center. Olson is on a full years’ paid leave of absence, while one of his legendary coaching counterparts, Bobby Knight announced his resignation from Texas Tech on Monday.

    Arizona men’s basketball interim head coach Kevin O’Neill has repeatedly said throughout the year that greatness can’t be replaced, in reference to legendary head coach Lute Olson’s absence.

    But what if greatness has come to the end of the road and has nothing left in the gas tank? It’s apparent that there comes a time in everyone’s career when it’s time to just walk away – not drag it on to the point where it’s holding the program back like Joe Paterno at Penn State or Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

    Bobby Knight, the all-time wins leader in Division I college basketball (902), felt it was the right time to step down, and he did just that. He may be criticized for walking out on Texas Tech mid-season when the team still has dim NCAA tournament hopes, but who knows when he realized that he was no longer fit for the job?

    Despite all the criticism, it’s still considerably doubtful that Knight previously planned to walk away from his team in the middle of the season.

    Pete Newell, another former coach – notably at Michigan State and California – and dear friend to Knight, spoke to him over the weekend and helped him come to the hard decision.

    “”I’m glad to see he is getting out,”” Newell told the Washington Post Monday night. “”He is worn out. Basketball is a lot tougher on coaches now. There is more money. There is more pressure. The media, it is a lot bigger. You get older, you just don’t have the same capacities.””

    But how does Knight’s decision stack up to Olson’s leave of absence for personal reasons?

    It is quite apparent that the two coaches, though both undoubtedly successful, are completely different.

    Olson has always prided himself on being professional while handling himself with the utmost class and integrity. Knight, on the other hand, could be seen throwing various chairs and using every four-letter word in the book throughout his coaching career.

    But if Olson is considering retiring – or is already mentally retired and has not told anyone – maybe Knight has a step up on him.

    It has come out that Olson is going through a divorce with his wife Christine, but after missing this much time it seems far-fetched that the divorce is the only thing keeping him away from the Wildcats. It’s impossible that that’s the case.

    If Olson feels he is no longer capable of running the Arizona basketball team in the same capacity he once did, it is out of line for him to continue to miss time and keep the team from moving in a new, potentially beneficial direction.

    Knight, 67, understands that he is no longer the best man for the job at Tech. Although leaving may seem like the wrong move at this time, maybe it’s in the best interest of the Red Raiders.

    After all, Knight isn’t leaving the team with a stranger – his son and assistant Pat Knight will now take over the team.

    But the other side of the spectrum remains untold.

    Olson has said he will return to the Wildcats next year, but with his advancing age and rumors of Parkinson’s disease, many question his abilities. After all, at 73, he is still six years Knight’s senior.

    Returning to the Wildcats after a yearlong hiatus would not be an easy task for any coach, let alone for an older Olson, and coming back and attempting to regain the reins of the program may do more damage than good.

    O’Neill has been in complete control of the program this season – maybe more than we know, even before Olson left – and to expect the Wildcats to completely return to Olson’s way is almost absurd.

    It may seem that Knight’s resignation in the middle of the season looks like another thing to add to the laundry list of controversial moves in his career, but maybe, just maybe, Knight is stepping down at the right time.

    Maybe Knight, who will forever have the reputation of being a hot-head, is doing the most honorable thing.

    Meanwhile, the spot on Olson’s reputation is almost non-existent because he has gained Arizona’s trust over the years. But you still have to sit back and ask yourself the same question that has been nagging me for months – is the way that Olson has decided to go about this leave of absence, while accepting pay for the entire year – $714,567 – the right thing to do?

    While everyone is focusing on Knight and his “”hypocritical”” decision to leave his team early, it seems to me that Olson may be just as wrong while not enduring the same heat from the media.

    -Ari Wasserman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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