TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona men's basketball coach Lute Olson has rejoined the program after taking a temporary leave of absence to support his late wife.
Olson, who has been away from the program since Dec. 30, returned to practice yesterday after a 16-day absence. He missed five games in that period, during which the Wildcats went 3-2. Olson's wife, Bobbi, passed away on Jan. 1 after a two-and-a-half year battle with ovarian cancer.
"I talked with the team prior to practice to indicate that I would get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible," said Olson. "Once I got out there, it didn't feel strange at all."
After discussions with his family, Olson decided the time was right to return to coaching. "In terms of why now," said Olson, "I talked it over with my family and told them that they needed to get back to their jobs and responsibilities, and they felt that I needed to do that as well.
"My oldest daughter, Vicki, said that mom would want you back out there," Olson said. "I didn't decide (to return) until this (Monday) morning. After waking up and talking with the kids, they felt that it was the right thing to do for the team and me."
UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough directed the program in Olson's absence. The team rose to No. 17 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls after picking up two wins last week. The Wildcats have a 10-5 overall record and are 3-1 in Pacific-10 Conference play.
"I feel that Coach Rosborough and the entire staff did a great job under extreme pressure," said Olson. "My family and I are also very thankful for the privacy that has been afforded us. It really meant a lot to us."
Olson and the Wildcats return to action on Thursday, Jan. 18, when the squad hosts No. 24 USC. Tip-off in McKale Center is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.