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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ex-Wilbur Wildcat shares his memories

    For years, before each men’s basketball home game in McKale Center, Arizona’s pep band would wave and shout in unison to the head coach, Lute Olson: “”Hi, Lute!””

    Standing near his team’s bench on the sideline, the “”Silver Fox”” would turn toward the band, flash his trademark smile and wave back.

    Before she passed away in 2001 of ovarian cancer, the band would offer the same salutation to Olson’s wife of 47 years, Bobbi Olson: “”Hi, Bobbi!””

    She’d stand up from her seat behind the players’ bench, wave and smile back.

    This is one of the best memories Kirk Sibley, who was Wilbur the Wildcat from 1996 to 2003, has about Lute Olson.

    “”I think if Lute leaving is the end of an era, certainly Bobbi, when she left, that was the end of an era,”” Sibley said. “”But it’s those kinds of memories that I’ll totally remember forever.””

    It’s tough for any UA basketball follower to forget about the team’s national title run in 1997, and even more so for Sibley, who was with the team as the school’s mascot.

    Another one of his favorite memories of Olson took place at the Crown Plaza in Memphis, Tenn., during the Wildcats’ championship run.

    “”We were all hanging out in the room with the band members, and they had this glass elevator that went up and down the side of the building,”” Sibley said. “”And our room faced right next to the elevator and he was coming up the elevator and waved.

    “”And he turned around and just waved as he went up. And everyone felt they had … the favor of God right there in the room,”” Sibley added, looking upward with his arms open. “”We all thought it was great.””

    Flash forward 11 years, and the Hall of Fame coach is retiring. But Sibley said the state of the team isn’t tarnished.

    “”Look at (North Carolina), look at Kansas,”” Sibley said, referring to national powerhouses that have seen many head coaches over the years. “”Programs are programs. And the greatness of Arizona will out-survive Lute.

    “”Lute is irreplaceable,”” Sibley added. It will take a long time to have someone come along and do the great things he did. I don’t think anyone can fill his shoes, but Arizona will rebound. And I think Lute would not leave if he did not feel the same way.””

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