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Head Coach Lute Olson
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 08/20/1999
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Lute Olson Record at Arizona: 395-120 (16 years)
Career Record: 587-212 (26 years)

Standing on the threshold setting some remarkable coaching achievements, Lute Olson enters his 17th season in Tucson in much the same fashion as he had every year -- poised to direct a program that is considered to be one of the nation's finest.

As the head coach at the University of Arizona, Olson has established both himself and the Wildcat hoop program as one ot the best in the land with each season seeing him record another head-turning accomplishment. This season will see him reach a number of milestones. The first game of 1999-2000 will be the 800th game of his 26-year head coaching career and he needs just 13 wins for career win No. 600, which would make him one of just 33 coaches in NCAA hoop history to win win 600 or more games. Further, with five more wins, he reaches 400 for his UA career and eight more wins, gives him the most collegiate wins of any coach in Arizona basketball history, surpassing the 402 wins Fred Enke recorded at the UA from 1925-60.

After all this success, it's hard to believe that it has not always been like this for the Wildcats. Back on March 29, 1983, when Olson took over the reigns in Tucson after nine successful seasons at Iowa, he was given a program that finished just 4-24 the season before. A quick and rapid rise to the top would ensue, much to the delight of the legions of hoop-crazed U of A fans.

During his tenure, Olson has delivered one national championship, three Final Four appearances, eight Pac-10 titles, six Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors, 15 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances -- a mark that is the second-longest in NCAA history -- and the nation's best winning percentage over the past 11 seasons. And those are just a few of the headlines that appear on his gaudy coaching resume.

In his 16 seasons at the helm of the Wildcats, the 64-year old Olson has created a basketball-rich tradition at the University of Arizona. In what was his silver season as a collegiate coach, Olson won his sixth Pac-10 Coach of the Year honor in 1997-98 after directing Arizona to the program's eighth Pac-10 Championship, all of which have come during the Olson era. That defending national champion took everyone's best shot throughout the season, but still managed to post a 30-5 record, thanks in part to a school record tying winning streak of 19 games in a row. The Wildcats, who were a last second desperation three-pointer away from becoming the first team in Pac-10 history to complete the league schedule 18-0, would get one step away from the school's fourth Final Four before falling to Utah in the Elite Eight at Anaheim.

Olson owns a career record of 587-212 (.734) in 26 years -- time spent as the head man at Arizona, Iowa and Long Beach State.

At Arizona, he has a mark of 395-120 (.767) and is 223-65 in Pac-10 play. The 223 Pac-10 wins makes him one of just six head coaches in league history to win more than 200 Pac-10 games -- joining John Wooden, Slats Gill, Hec Edmundson, Jack Friel and Ralph Miller -- and he is the No. 2 coach in Pac-10 history for career winning percentage for conference games with more than two years experience, trailing only the legendary Wooden.

His success not only happens on the court, but also in the recruiting process and in the number of former players that currently play in the NBA. For instance, the 1998-99 recruiting class was judged as one of the top-three in the nation by some analysts. With a 1998 NBA draft-day high tying three choices, followed by two this past NBA Draft, Arizona has had 15 UA players picked by NBA teams in the 1990s. This past year, there are 14 Arizona alums on NBA rosters (second only to North Carolina's 16) and two former Wildcats were a member of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (Sean Elliott & Steve Kerr).

In a career that has produced one major achievement after another, it was the 1996-97 season that proved to be the year when Olson reached the pinnacle of his coaching career.

After seeing his squad finish with a regular season record of 19-9 and its lowest Pac-10 finish (fifth) since his first year at the UA (eighth), he rallied the troops for one of the most remarkable runs in the NCAA tournament's history. Going in as a No. 4 seed and with a two-game losing streak, the Wildcats proceeded to do what no team had ever done -- beat three No. 1 seeds on the way to the national title.

Oh and by the way, this trio of wins didn't come against just any group of teams -- they were versus the three winningest programs in college basketball history.

The excitement started when Arizona knocked off everyone's favorite to win it all, Kansas, in the Sweet 16 at Birmingham, Ala. Then, after going into overtime to beat Providence in the Southeast Regional Championship, 96-92, the UA advanced to the Final Four in Indianapolis, where it beat its second No. 1 seed, North Carolina. This win set up the title game against defending national champion, Kentucky.

The Wildcats vs. Wildcats match-up proved to be a battle of epic proportions, one that resulted in the first NCAA overtime title game in seven years. When the dust had settled, Olson's club came away with a 84-79 win, a conquest that took place just two days after his 14-year anniversary of being named the head coach at Arizona. The monumental win set off not only a wild celebration at both the RCA Dome, but back home on the streets of Tucson.

That national championship team was built out of the same mold as the man who was in charge -- forged with a competitive fire, driven and dedicated to be the best. Following the year, Olson was awarded with the second annual Chase Winged Foot Award, an honor that is presented to the coach of the national champions by the New York Athletic Club.

In the year prior to the national championship campaign (1995-96), Olson reached a pair of head coaching milestones, as he won his 300th game as the UA head man and attained his 500th career victory as a head coach.

Following the initial season as the Wildcats' head man, the Arizona basketball program began its trek into not only the local limelight, but the national spotlight as well. The excitement that Olson brought to McKale Center has been parlayed into sellout season ticket crowds for the past 12 years in a row and well-earned respect for Olson among his peers in the coaching profession.

He continues to put his stamp on the NCAA and Pac-10 coaching record book with each season. He has coached in the NCAA tournament 20 times in the last 21 years, including the 15 straight seasons at Arizona and overall he has a 31-20 NCAA record. In addition to the appearances with his Arizona clubs from 1985-99, he led Iowa to five consecutive trips in his final five years in Iowa City.

Olson's Arizona teams are 24-14 in NCAA play with trips to the 1988, 1994 & 1997 Final Four. Olson's Iowa teams were 7-6 in NCAA action including a Final Four trip in 1980. His 31 NCAA Tournament wins tie him with Jerry Tarkanian for seventh on the NCAA all-time tournament victory list and he is one of just 14 coaches who have coached in four of more Final Fours. Further, his 20 all-time trips to the NCAA Tournament ties him for fourth on the all-time head coaching list.

Some teams rebuild, but Olson reloads the Wildcat program -- always giving his players the right to approve or disapprove any prospective recruit.

"I have been a firm believer that you build a successful program with good people, Olson said. "We never recruit the great players who are questionable people. Hopefully they will be great players as well."

Many of these players have utilized the Arizona program to hone their skills and move onto the next level. Under Olson, 20 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, while numerous others have gone onto play overseas.

It most assuredly has been a successful run at Arizona for Olson. After coming to Tucson, it proved to take just one season for him to ignite a dormant program.

In 1984-85 -- his second year -- the Wildcats finished the year at 21-10 and made their first of many visits to the NCAA tournament. It had been eight years since an Arizona team had won 20 games and Olson was just beginning to scratch the surface.

National recognition came with the 1986 season as the Cats won their first Pac-10 title and put together a 23-9 record. That was the first of eight Pac-10 titles that Arizona has won since Olson's arrival. The four titles won from 1988-91 marked the first time a Pac-10 team won four consecutive titles since the league expansion in 1979.

With that 1988 Pac-10 title, the season culminated into Arizona's first trip to the Final Four as the Cats put together their finest season in school history with a 35-3 record.

Including that 1987-88 Final Four season, Arizona has won an average of 26 games a season (averaging just six losses) and the overall record of 320-74 during that same period is the nation's best in terms of winning percentage (.812).

The numbers get even better when you look at what the Cats have done at home for Olson. In the last 16 years under Olson, Arizona has amassed a record of 243-25 in McKale Center and have lost only eight non-conference games. During that time, the Cats had an amazing run of 71 consecutive victories without a defeat, making it one of the NCAA's all-time top 10 longest home-court winning streaks. The Wildcats are currently working on another streak, taking an 32-game home unbeaten streak into this year's campaign.

The streaks haven't built around a light schedule either. Olson does not avoid tough games. Since his arrival, Arizona has played 39 non-conference, regular season games against teams that played in the Final Four later that same season. Further, they have matched wits with a team that played in the NCAA title game in four of the past five seasons

With the success of the Wildcats throughout the years, the accolades for Olson continue to grow. His resume is dotted with Coach of the Year honors from the Pac-10 (1986, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994 and 1998) and Big Ten (1979 and 1981) in addition to a variety of regional and national honors.

Olson's success at Arizona mirrors his earlier work at Iowa where in nine years in Iowa City from 1975 to 1983 he became the winningest coach in school history (168-90) and took the Hawkeyes to the NCAA five straight times including a Final Four trip in 1980.

Olson was born on a farm just outside Maryville, N.D., and would go on to attend high school in Grand Forks, N.D., for the 1951-52 season, where he led the team to the 1952 state basketball championship. For college, he was a three-sport athlete (basketball, football and baseball) at Augsburg College (Minn.) from 1953-56. After five years of prep coaching in Minnesota, he moved west and coached for seven years in Anaheim and Huntington Beach, Calif., high schools.

He then guided Long Beach City College to three league titles and the 1971 state juco crown and was the conference coach of the year in each of his three seasons. After that tenure, he would become the head coach at Long Beach State for one seasons (174), where he was 24-2. That got the attention of Iowa, which hired him for the next season.

Olson married the former Roberta (Bobbi) Russell in 1953. The Olsons have five grown children -- daughters Vicki, Jodi and Christi, and sons Greg and Steve - and 12 grandchildren.

 

Lute Olson's Year-By-Year Record

Long Beach St.

1973-74

24-2

 

 

Long Beach St.

1 year

24-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa

1974-75

10-16

7-11 Big 10 (7th)

 

Iowa

1975-76

19-10

9-9 Big 10 (5th)

 

Iowa

1976-77

20-7

12-6 Big 10 (4th)

 

Iowa

1977-78

12-15

5-13 Big 10 (8th)

 

Iowa

1978-79

20-8

13-5 Big 10 (1st)

NCAA Mideast 1st Rd

Iowa

1979-80

23-10

10-8 Big 10 (4th)

NCAA East Champions Final Four

Iowa

1980-81

21-7

13-5 Big 10 (2nd)

NCAA Midwest 2nd

Iowa

1981-82

21-8

12-6 Big 10 (2nd)

NCAA West 2nd Rd

Iowa

1982-83

22-9

10-8 Big 10 (T/2nd)

NCAA Midwest Reg.

Iowa

9 years

167-91 (.647)

Big 10: 91-71(.561)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona

1983-84

11-17

8-10 Pac-10 (8th)

 

Arizona

1984-85

21-10

12-6 Pac-10 (T-3rd)

NCAA West 1st Rd

Arizona

1985-86

23-9

14-4 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West 1st Rd

Arizona

1986-87

18-12

13-5 Pac-10 (2nd)

NCAA West 1st Rd

Arizona

1987-88

35-3

17-1 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West Champ. Final Four

Arizona

1988-89

29-4

17-1 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West Regional

Arizona

1989-90

25-7

15-3 Pac-10 (T/1st)

NCAA West 2nd Rd

Arizona

1990-91

28-7

14-4 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West Regional

Arizona

1991-92

24-7

13-5 Pac-10 (3rd)

NCAA SE 1st Rd

Arizona

1992-93

24-4

17-1 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West 1st Rd

Arizona

1993-94

29-6

14-4 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West Champion Final Four

Arizona

1994-95

24-7

14-4 Pac-10 (2nd)

NCAA Midwest 1st Rd

Arizona

1995-96

27-6

14-4 Pac-10 (2nd)

NCAA West Regional

Arizona

1996-97

25-9

11-7 Pac-10 (5th)

NCAA Champions

Arizona

1997-98

30-5

17-1 Pac-10 (1st)

NCAA West Reg Final

Arizona

1998-99

22-7

13-5 Pac-10 (2nd)

NCAA Midwest Reg.

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona

16 years

395-120 (.767)

Pac-10: 223-65 (.774)

 

Long Beach St.

1 year

24-2

.943

 

Iowa

9 years

168-90

.651

 

Arizona

16 years

395-120

.767

 

Overall

26 years

587-212

.735

 

Most NCAA Tournament Appearances

27

Dean Smith, North Carolina

1967-97

23

Bob Knight, Indiana

1973-99

22

Denny Crum, Louisville

1972-97

20

Adolph Rupp, Kentucky

1942-72

20

John Thompson, Georgetown

1975-96

20

Lute Olson, Iowa/Arizona

1979-99

19

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

1977-99

19

Eddie Sutton, Creighton, Arkansas/Kentucky/Okla. State

1974-98

18

Lou Carnesecca, St. John's

1967-92

18

Lou Henson, NMSU/Illinois

1967-95

 

Most NCAA Tournament Wins

65

Dean Smith, North Carolina

1967-97

48

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

1984-99

47

John Wooden, UCLA

1950-75

42

Denny Crum, Louisville

1972-99

42

Bob Knight, Indiana

1973-99

34

John Thompson, Georgetown

1975-96

31

Lute Olson, Iowa & Arizona

1978-99

31

Jerry Tarkanian, Long Beach St/UNLV

1970-91

30

Adolph Rupp, Kentucky

1942-72

29

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

1977-99

 

 Most Consecutive NCAA Tourney Appearances

23

Dean Smith, North Carolina

1975-97

15

Lute Olson, Arizona

1985-99

14

John Thompson, Georgetown

1979-92

14

Bob Knight, Indiana

1986-99

11

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

1993-94

11

Eddie Sutton, Arkansas/Kentucky

1977-87

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Lute Olson is one of 14 coaches in collegiate history to coach in four or more Final Fours.
  • Olson is one of 11 coaches who have taken two different teams to the Final Four.
  • Olson's and Arizona's string of 15 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the longest current streak in college basketball. Further, it's the second longest in NCAA history, trailing only North Carolina's 25 consecutive appearances.
  • Olson's 31 NCAA tournament wins are the fifth-most among active coaches.
  • Olson's 20 tournament appearances are third-most among active coaches (Mike Krzyzewski is first with 23 and Denny Crum and second with 22).
  • Olson's 1997 NCAA championship team was the first and only squad in history to beat three No. 1 seeds in the same tournament.
  • Olson has guided Arizona to seven NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in the last 12 years and a 15-5 record in the Cats' past 20 NCAA tournament games.

Lute Olson in NCAA Play

Arizona head coach Lute Olson has coached in the NCAA tournament 20 times in the last 21 years, including 15 straight seasons at Arizona. Overall he has a 31-19 NCAA record. In addition to the appearances with his Arizona clubs from 1985-99, he led Iowa to five consecutive trips in his final five years in Iowa City. Olson's Arizona teams are 24-13 in NCAA play with trips to the 1988, 1994 & 1997 Final Fours. Olson's Iowa teams were 7-6 in NCAA action including a Final Four trip in 1980. Here is a breakdown by year.

L

72-74

Iowa-Toledo

1979 Mideast

W

86-72

Iowa-Virginia Commonwealth

1980 East

W

77-64

Iowa-N.C. State

1980 East

W

88-77

Iowa-Syracuse

1980 East Reg.

W

81-80

Iowa-Georgetown

1980 East Reg.

L

72-80

Iowa-Louisville

1980 Final Four

L

58-75

Iowa-Purdue

1980 Final Four

L

56-60

Iowa-Wichita State

1981 Midwest

W

70-63

Iowa-NE Louisiana

1982 West

L

67-69 (ot)

Iowa-Idaho

1982 West

W

64-59

Iowa-Utah State

1983 Midwest

W

77-63

Iowa-Missouri

1983 Midwest

L

54-55

Iowa-Villanova

1983 Midwest Reg

L

41-50

Arizona-Alabama

1985 West

L

63-73

Arizona-Auburn

1986 West

L

91-98 (ot)

Arizona-UTEP

1987 West

W

90-50

Arizona-Cornell

1988 West

W

84-55

Arizona-Seton Hall

1988 West

W

99-79

Arizona-Iowa

1988 West Reg.

W

70-52

Arizona-No. Carolina

1988 West Reg.

L

78-86

Arizona-Oklahoma

1988 Final Four

W

94-60

Arizona-Robert Morris

1989 West

W

95-68

Arizona-Clemson

1989 West

L

67-68

Arizona-UNLV

1989 West Reg.

W

79-67

Arizona-South Florida

1990 West

L

55-77

Arizona-Alabama

1990 West

W

93-80

Arizona-St. Francis

1991 West

W

76-61

Arizona-BYU

1991 West

L

77-81

Arizona-Seton Hall

1991 West Reg.

L

80-87

Arizona-East Tenn. St.

1992 Southeast

L

61-64

Arizona-Santa Clara

1993 West

W

81-55

Arizona-Loyola (Md.)

1994 West

W

71-58

Arizona-Virginia

1994 West

W

82-70

Arizona-Louisville

1994 West Reg.

W

92-72

Arizona-Missouri

1994 West Reg.

L

82-91

Arizona-Arkansas

1994 Final Four

L

62-71

Arizona-Miami, Ohio

1995 Midwest

W

91-51

Arizona-Valparaiso

1996 West

W

87-73

Arizona-Iowa

1996 West

L

80-83

Arizona-Kansas

1996 West Regional

W

65-57

Arizona-South Alabama

1997 Southeast

W

73-69

Arizona Coll. of Charleston

1997 Southeast

W

85-82

Arizona-Kansas

1997 Southeast

W

96-92 (ot)

Arizona-Providence

1997 Southeast

W

66-58

Arizona-North Carolina

1997 Final Four

W

84-79 (ot)

Arizona-Kentucky

1997 Final Four

W

99-60

Arizona-Nicholls State

1998 West

W

82-49

Arizona-Illinois State

1998 West

W

87-79

Arizona-Maryland

1998 West Reg.

L

51-76

Arizona-Utah

1998 West Reg.

 

Lute Olson vs. All Opponents

Alabama

0-2

Anchorage-Alaska

1-0

Arizona (at Iowa)

1-0

Arizona State

27-6

Arkansas

2-3

Arkansas-L.Rock

1-0

Assumption

1-0

Auburn

1-0

Augustana

1-0

Austin Peay

1-0

Baylor

2-0

Boston College

4-0

Bradley

2-0

Brigham Young

3-0

California

26-9

Cal Poly Pomona

1-0

CS-Los Angeles

2-0

CS-Northridge

1-0

Canisius

1-0

Cincinnati

3-0

Clemson

2-0

Colorado

0-1

Colorado State

1-1

Coll. of Charleston

1-0

Coppin State

1-0

Cornell

1-0

Dayton

2-0

Delaware State

1-0

Denver

2-0

Detroit

2-0

Drake

11-1

Duke

3-2

Duquesne

1-0

East Tenn. St.

1-1

Evansville

2-0

Fla. International

1-0

Florida State

1-1

Fordham

1-0

Ft. Hays State

1-0

Fresno State

2-0

Fullerton State

0-1

Georgetown

2-1

Georgia Tech

0-1

Hawaii

2-0

Hawaii-Hilo

2-0

Hawaii-Pacific

2-0

Holy Cross

2-0

Houston

2-1

Houston Baptist

1-0

Idaho

0-1

Illinois

14-6

Illinois State

1-0

Illinois-Wesleyan

1-0

Indiana

7-11

Indiana State

1-0

Iowa

2-1

Iowa State

10-2

Jackson State

1-0

James Madison

2-0

Kansas

1-3

Kansas State

1-0

Kent State

3-0

Kentucky

2-1

La Salle

1-0

Long Beach State

3-0

Long Island Univ.

1-0

Louisiana State

2-1

Louisville

1-0

Loyola-Chicago

1-0

Loyola-Maryland

1-0

Loyola Marymount

2-0

Mankato State

1-0

Marquette

3-1

Maryland

1-0

Miami (Fla.)

2-0

Miami (Ohio)

0-1

Michigan

11-12

Michigan State

8-11

Minnesota

11-9

Mississippi State

1-0

Missouri

2-1

Montana

1-0

Navy

1-0

Nebraska

2-0

Nebraska-Omaha

1-0

Nevada-Las Vegas

1-5

Nevada-Reno

1-0

New Mexico

5-5

New Orleans

3-0

Nicholls State

1-0

North Carolina

3-1

N. Carolina State

1-0

Northeast La.

2-0

Northern Arizona

9-0

Northern Illinois

4-0

Northern Iowa

3-0

Northwestern

16-2

Notre Dame

2-0

Ohio State

9-9

Oklahoma

1-2

Oklahoma State

2-0

Oral Roberts

1-0

Oregon

26-6

Oregon State

29-5

Pacific

2-0

Pan American

1-1

Pennsylvania

2-0

Penn State

1-0

Pepperdine

2-0

Pittsburgh

3-1

Princeton

1-0

Providence

2-2

Puget Sound

1-0

Purdue

9-12

Rhode Island

2-0

Richmond

1-0

Robert Morris

2-0

Rutgers

2-0

St. Bonaventure

1-0

St. Francis (Pa.)

1-0

St. Joseph's

1-0

San Diego State

4-1

San Francisco

1-0

San Francisco State

1-0

San Jose State

3-1

Santa Clara

2-1

Seton Hall

2-1

South Alabama

1-0

South Carolina

1-0

South Florida

1-0

Stanford

25-8

Syracuse

2-2

Temple

2-0

Tennessee

2-1

Texas

3-0

Texas A&M

1-0

Texas San Antonio

1-0

Texas Tech

3-0

Toledo

0-1

Towson State

1-0

Tulane

1-0

Tulsa

1-1

UC-Irvine

2-0

UC-Santa Barbara

2-0

UCLA

18-16

U.S. International

1-0

UNC Asheville

1-0

USC

27-8

UTEP

2-2

Utah

3-3

Utah State

1-0

Villanova

2-1

Virginia

1-0

Va. Commonwealth

2-0

Wake Forest

0-1

Washington

23-9

Washington State

29-2

West Virginia

1-0

Western Illinois

1-0

Wichita State

2-1

Wisconsin

15-3

Wis-Eau Claire

1-0

Wyoming

1-0

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