The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

68° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Olson’s status stagnant

    UA interim head coach Kevin ONeill speaks to the media during a press conference yesterday afternoon in McKale Center. ONeill confirmed that head coach Lute Olson will attend some upcoming practices, but it is yet to be determined when he will be coaching during games again.
    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill speaks to the media during a press conference yesterday afternoon in McKale Center. O’Neill confirmed that head coach Lute Olson will attend some upcoming practices, but it is yet to be determined when he will be coaching during games again.

    The day after Lute Olson returned to practice brought more questions than answers about the UA head coach’s status with the team after he took a leave of absence Nov. 4.

    Interim head coach Kevin O’Neill announced that Olson will be with the team at “”some”” practices but that there is no timetable for him to return to the sidelines or a definitive schedule for when he will attend practices.

    The only certainty is he will not coach tonight’s game against Cal State-Fullerton.

    “”There is absolutely no timetable for his return,”” O’Neill said.ÿ””As you know, no timetable could mean anything.ÿBelieve me, there is no plan.ÿWe’re not covering up anything here.ÿWe’re just giving Coach his space to be who he is and do what he needs to do.””

    However, players seemed to think that Olson had returned to the team to stay after taking part in Monday’s practice, which O’Neill led.

    I think we need him back. He’s going to bring some things back that you can’t replace. He’s a Hall-of-Fame coach.

    Jerryd Bayless, guard

    Forward Chase Budinger and guard Jerryd Bayless both spoke under the impression that Olson’s back “”for good,”” as Bayless said.

    “”It’s definitely assuring that coach Olson’s back,”” Budinger said yesterday. “”He said that he’s pretty much back for the rest of the season. I guess he was supposed to have a press conference today?””

    Olson did not end up holding a press conference yesterday, with O’Neill instead handling the head coach’s job of speaking with the media as he has throughout Olson’s leave.

    The 25-year UA head coach did take part in Monday’s practice, in which O’Neill said he was “”very involved”” and made some “”great”” teaching points.

    Forward Bret Brielmaier said the players all said hello to Olson before the practice, in which he made suggestions and took players aside when he had a point to make.

    “”It seemed like he was slowly kind of working his way back in,”” Budinger said. “”Coach O’Neill was still kind of running the practice, but coach Olson was there supervising.””

    The team found out about Olson’s return to practice Monday at the airport after touching down in Tucson on its return home from Sunday’s game at No. 4 Kansas.

    O’Neill said players have been resilient in handling the situation involving Olson’s time away from the team.

    “”They are getting some life experiences, all right,”” he said.ÿ””As a matter of fact, I am, too, as we go along here. They’re handling it, probably, better than all of us, to be honest with you. I have great admiration for how these guys have gone about their business the entire time we’ve been practicing this year and playing games.””

    That doesn’t mean it has been easy for them.

    Center Kirk Walters said it felt a bit strange at first not having Olson around, while Budinger said the timetable involved, with not knowing when Olson would return, has been awkward.

    “”It’s been kind of weird, just coach Olson leaving, and now he’s finally back,”” Budinger said. “”It’s been kind of hectic, but I think us as players, we’ve been keeping our heads on right. We’ve been just focusing (on) the task at hand, just playing.””

    Bayless has spoken to Olson on the phone a few times during his absence, which Bayless said has made it easier on him. He called just to see how Olson was doing and did not talk about basketball, although O’Neill said Olson has followed the team very closely.

    As a freshman who has not been coached by Olson in an official game yet, Bayless said it would be a great feeling to see Olson back on the sideline.

    “”He can bring his whole positive atmosphere back to the team,”” Bayless said. “”I think we need him back. He’s going to bring some things back that you can’t replace. He’s a Hall-of-Fame coach.””

    In the meantime, O’Neill said he plans to continue coaching the Wildcats while keeping in mind both Olson’s personal situation and making sure players have the best possible experience at Arizona.

    Although a cloud of uncertainty involving Olson’s return still hangs over the program, Brielmaier could see a silver lining to the situation.

    “”I think it’s actually brought us together a little more,”” he said. “”All of us as players seem real close, real together right now.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search