Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson dies at 85


Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson, who made Arizona a national powerhouse and guided the Wildcats to the school’s only NCAA Championship, has died at age 85.Olson was hospitalized last year after suffering a stroke and was recently transferred to palliative care.

His death was confirmed by his family to the Arizona media.

Olson went 589-187 in 24 seasons in Arizona and guided the Wildcats to four Final Four appearances, 23 consecutive NCAA tournaments and 11 Pac-10 titles, as well as the national title in 1997.

He was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, and a statue of Olson was erected outside the McKale Memorial Center in 2018.

Olson ended his coaching career with a record 776-285 in 34 seasons at Arizona, Iowa and Long Beach State.

Arizona won just four games in 1982-83, the season before Olson arrived in Tucson, and had reached the NCAA tournament twice since 1951.

But the Wildcats quickly turned things around under Olson, reaching the NCAA tournament in his second season at school and qualifying for the school’s first Final Four in 1987-88, when they finished 35-3.

Arizona reached the Final Four again in 1994 before winning their first and only NCAA title in 1998, when rookie Mike Bibby and junior Miles Simon led Olson and the Wildcats largely favored Kentucky in the championship game.

The Wildcats also advanced to the National Championship game under Olson in 2001, when they were defeated by Duke.

Olson began his coaching career in 1973-74 at Long Beach State, where he went 24-2, before being hired in Iowa the following season. He has coached the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament five times in nine seasons.


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