Report: Lute Olson Steps Down
Posted by Zach on October 23, 2008
The coaching turmoil continues down in Tuscon.
Just months after interim coach Kevin O’Neill took off and weeks after longtime coach Lute Olson remarked that he was “excited to get on the court,” reports from ESPN.com and a source close to Dick Vitale have told him Olson has stepped down and will not coach the Arizona Wildcats this season. This seems to be confirmed by a report in the Arizona Daily Star that the fathers of two prized class of 2009 Arizona recruits, Abdul Gaddy and Solomon Hill, have received the news of Olson stepping down. Hill’s father says blatantly that he was told it’s “official” and “Lute is out.”
On the other hand, Arizona spokesperson Tom Duddleston said Thursday morning he has not been informed of the Olson resignation and he was even told “no way” by other working at the school regarding the report. Reporters contend they felt Olson was completely in good spirits coaching the team Monday, but fell ill on Wednesday and was forced to miss practice. Those close to the program insist he was “just sick” and it was nothing to be overly concerned about.
If the report is true, Arizona assistant coach Mike Dunlap would take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. Obviously, it’s much too early to speculate on the status of both Gaddy and Hill, whom the Arizona program are likely reaching out to at this point in hopes of keeping them on board. Olson, 74, took a leave of absence last season and was expected to return to the bench this year in full strength for the entire season.
This entire operation has been botched. How do two fathers of Arizona recruits know the news, ESPN gets a gift-wrapped scoop on the news….yet prominent players like Jordan Hill and some administration have no idea where this story is coming from. It would have been wise to hold a team meeting this morning to alert the Wildcats and let the entire staff know before this leaked out (I know, easier said than done) rather than have members of the team “not knowing a damn thing” and spending the entire day thinking Lute Olson was their coach when I heard the news around 11:30 AM central time.
If Olson has officially retired, his finished resume is quite impressive: 1997 National Title, 781-280 record, 5 Final Fours, 23 consecutive NCAA appearances, 11 Pac-10 titles. Not to mention turning around an Arizona program that was a complete afterthought before he arrived in the mid-80s. He’s recruited and coached such household names as Mike Bibby, Damon Stoudamire, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson and Steve Kerr. Even at his old age, he was able to lure Brandon Jennings to Arizona, whom many believed was the best guard in the class of 2008.
UPDATE: Scavening around the series of tubes for more Olson news and reactions. The most interesting summation came from Rush the Court, who showed that Olson, well, may be a tad overrated, at least in terms of NCAA Tournament accomplishments. In fact, most of the time he underachieved.
As stated above, Arizona has gone to five Final Fours under Lute Olson. Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8). Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure. Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won). When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times. This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament. From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs. The historical model suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era. The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma). Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points.