Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson, who led the Arizona Wildcats to their only national championship, died at the age of 85 on Thursday. Family members confirmed the news to Arizona media outlets. Olson suffered a stroke last year and was recently placed in hospice care.
"Lute Olson was so much more than a basketball coach," Arizona president, Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. "He was an educator, a motivator, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a friend to so many." Robbins also noted that Olson was a "true leader" and "displayed such integrity and compassion in every endeavor." A number of former players that have gone on to have long NBA careers paid tribute to Olson, including Jason Terry, Richard Jefferson and current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
It’s rare that a man is a Hall of famer and still under appreciated. I’ll always feel like you never got the credit you deserved as a leader, family man, grandfather, coach and as a mentor. I love you Coach O 🐻⬇️— Richard Jefferson (@Rjeff24) August 28, 2020
"It's hard to put into words how much Lute Olson meant to me," Kerr said. "He was an amazing coach & a wonderful man. Being part of the U of A basketball family changed my life forever. I will never forget Coach O, those awesome nights at McKale and all my teammates. Thank you Coach- I love you!"
Olson was the head coach at Arizona from 1983-2008 and posted a 589-187 record. He led the team to a national championship in 1997 while also leading them to four Final Four appearances and 15 Pac-10 regular season and tournament titles. He was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year seven times and National Coach of the Year five times.
Before becoming the head coach at Arizona, Olson spent time at Iowa (1974-83) where he led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament five times in nine seasons. He also was the head coach at Long Beach State (1973-74) where he went 24-2. In his entire college career, Olson recorded 781 wins and 280 losses. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and 2019.