The award will be presented to Olson by Chip Hilton Sports and the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 2, 2001 at a noon NABC luncheon at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, MN.
The Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award honors the active Division I basketball coach who has made the most significant positive contributions to his sport during the preceding year. The winner is the person identified by the voters as most reflecting the character and professional qualities of Clair Bee, a Hall of Fame coach at Long Island University who many consider to be the best technical basketball coach in history, and a man who cared deeply about his players' well-being.
Previous award winners include coaches Clem Haskins of Minnesota, Jim Phelan of Mount St. Mary's, Jim O'Brien of Ohio State and Jim Boehim of Syracuse.
CLAIR BEE RECIPIENT
LUTE OLSON has been a college head coach the last 28 years, compiling a 638-224 record at the University of Arizona the last 18 seasons. In 1997, Olson led Arizona to the NCAA championship and has led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2001. Olson, who is the seventh winningest active Division I coach, holds the distinction of being one of 14 coaches in college history to coach in four or more Final Fours. His 22 NCAA Tournament appearances are third most among active coaches and his 36 NCAA wins are fifth best among active coaches. Under Olson, Arizona's 17 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the second longest current streak in college basketball and is second longest in history. He was been named National Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1990.
Olson's Wildcats, who will meet Michigan State in the NCAA national semifinal on Saturday in Minneapolis, began the pre-season with his team ranked number one. The Wildcats played the first six games of the season without All-America center Loren Woods. That proved to be only a minor distraction as Olson faced a greater challenge when he took a leave of absence to be with his wife, Bobbi, who was battling ovarian cancer.
Shortly thereafter, his wife of 47 years and 28 basketball seasons passed away. Upon his return to the team, the Wildcats closed the regular-season with six consecutive victories, including defeating top-ranked Stanford.
Finalits for the Clair Bee Award were: Tom Izzo, head coach at Michigan State University, Al Skinner, head coach of Boston College, Eddie Sutton, head coach of Oklahoma State University and Ralph Willard, head coach at Holy Cross.
The Clair Bee Award is judged on the following criteria: obstacles overcome by the coach or his team that served to inspire others, outstanding character traits built into the team, innovations or strategy impacting the game, delicate handling of a crisis situation with integrity and grace, excellence in coaching that caused the team to overachieve, excellence in academic performance by the team, positive impact in the local community or national public service, and upholding a standard of personal integrity within and outside the sport.