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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Olson back to work

    Arizona mens basketball head coach Lute Olson talks to his players during a timeout in an 81-66 loss to then-No. 5 UCLA on Feb. 17, 2007. Olson returned to work Monday after a season-long leave of absence.
    Arizona men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson talks to his players during a timeout in an 81-66 loss to then-No. 5 UCLA on Feb. 17, 2007. Olson returned to work Monday after a season-long leave of absence.

    Hoops Notes

    Lute Olson spent a busy second day at the office yesterday meeting with players and staff as he settles back into the Arizona head coaching position following his season-long leave of absence for medical reasons.

    The past two days he has held meetings with players to see where their heads are going into the offseason, and yesterday he sat down with the seniors to make sure they’re set with what they’re going to do in the future.

    He said he spoke with the potential returning players about how the team’s offensive style would “”go back to what we’ve done before,”” a fast-paced style in contrast to the system favored by interim head coach Kevin O’Neill that relied more on set plays.

    “”That’s what they were recruited for, to play in that style,”” Olson said.

    UA forward Chase Budinger, who’s pondering entering the NBA Draft, said after Thursday’s NCAA Tournament loss that changing the team’s offensive identity “”kind of got to me a little bit,”” as he came in thinking he would play one style and ended up playing another.

    Olson also met with O’Neill, who implemented the new attack and changed the defense to a strict man-to-man system. Olson said O’Neill needs a few weeks to think over his future with Arizona before making a decision about returning but added it will be up to O’Neill.

    Despite their different coaching philosophies, Olson brought up the fact that the coaches worked together on the Arizona staff for three years, one of which being the team’s 35-3 Final Four season in 1988.

    Olson ended his day meeting with UA athletics director Jim Livengood yesterday, who said Monday afternoon he was unaware of when Olson would return.

    That’s quite a busy day for a 73-year-old coach, who said he feels rejuvenated from his time off.

    “”I’m ready to go,”” Olson said. “”Once every 50 years you should be able to get a year off.””

    Olson unsure about recruits O’Neill offered, willing to stand pat

    Olson said the offers O’Neill made to a pair recruits in the 2008 class were not his offers, a situation he talked about with assistant coach Josh Pastner, so the team may not have interest in those players anymore.

    That became a moot point yesterday for one of the targeted prospects when forward Jeff Taylor announced his top-three schools did not include Arizona. It does not appear the Wildcats have plans for forward Wesley Witherspoon, ranked No. 56 nationally by

    “”(Pastner’s) just going to talk with (the recruits) from the standpoint of ‘I’m back, and now I need some time to think about it,'”” Olson said.

    The Wildcats will have one available scholarship even if everybody comes back, and could have more if guard Jerryd Bayless and Budinger don’t return.

    Olson said when he’s had an available scholarship in the past he’s often given it to a walk-on, so guard David Bagga “”would obviously be a good candidate for that scholarship.

    “”I’m not interested in just getting guys to get guys,”” Olson said.

    Added Pastner: “”We don’t have to have one more guy. We have one to give, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it. You can save it for a mid-year transfer, you could save it for somebody else or you could wait for ’09.””

    Olson plans meeting with potential draft picks, Hill unlikely to go

    The number of scholarships the team has available for 2008 depends largely on whether Bayless and Budinger decide to enter June’s NBA Draft. Olson said he would meet with the Bayless family tomorrow and the Budinger family Sunday.

    He said UA forward Jordan Hill will likely be returning, as “”he knows”” where he stands. Hill said last week he did not want to leave just to sit on an NBA bench.

    “”The thing is he could probably go maybe late-first, second round,”” Olson said. “”A year from now he could be way up there. So that would be a bad, bad decision on his part.””

    No rift between O’Neill, assistants

    Pastner denied a rift between O’Neill and his assistants, something O’Neill also denied after Thursday’s NCAA Tournament loss when a reporter brought up the fact he didn’t seem to speak much with his assistants during the game.

    “”I never talk to my assistant coaches,”” O’Neill said. “”I’m the head coach.””

    Pastner said the coaching staff communicates “”on everything”” from game planning to in-game adjustments.

    “”Maybe there’s some times where in the end, whether it’s coach Olson or coach O’Neill, the head coach makes the final call,”” Pastner said. “”So I think maybe he meant on that the final decision comes from him, the head coach. Every head coach has the final say. I mean, you’re the boss.””

    Signee Jennings to play in All-American game tonight

    UA recruit Brandon Jennings will take the floor in the McDonald’s All-American Game tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Milwaukee. It will be televised by ESPN.

    His appearance marks the third straight year a future Wildcat will participate, as Jerryd Bayless did last year and Chase Budinger the year before. An Arizona-signed player has been chosen for the game six of the past seven years, as Jennings joins guard Jawann McClellan (2004), guard Mustafa Shakur (2003) and guard Hassan Adams (2002).

    Jennings earned the Naismith National High School Player of the Year award and ranks as’s top player in the class of 2008.

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