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What They Are Saying About Lute Olson . . .
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/27/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Sept. 27, 2002

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"Through the diligent preparation of detail, at the high school, junior college and collegiate levels, Lute Olson prepared himself for his eventual induction into the Naismth Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest honor a basketball coach can achieve.
"There is much truth in the words of the sportswriter who wrote - "Lute Olson's teams are as meticulously prepared as his personal appearance. Coach Olson's teams are always fundamentally sound, both offensively and defensively and not known for beating themselves. He is also well-known for stressing team play over individual play and as a result, his teams usually would have more assists than their opponents. For many years, Lute Olson's name would be among the first to come up when followers of the game would be attempting to evaluate the better coaches of the sport.
"Although I have tremendous respect for Lute as a teacher of the sport we both love, I have equal respect for him as a family man and the latter is more important. Any parent would be pleased to have their youngster under the supervision of a teacher like Lute Olson." - John Wooden, legendary UCLA head coach

"I think in the history of college basketball, Lute Olson will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time, especially when it comes to building great programs at multiple schools.
"In terms of success at such different institutions, what sets Lute apart isn't just the number of wins, but the amount of class in those programs, the people within and his players. That class is far more important than the wins.
"Because of that, I believe he is a highly-respected individual by those of us in the media covering him on the outside and those who compete directly against him. He is a very special guy." - Billy Packer, CBS College Basketball Analyst

"Lute Olson is one of the true giants of the college game. His longevity, by itself, is remarkable, but his standard of excellence set over those years has been truly astonishing. Coach Olson is a resilient competitor and prolific winner, and he has accomplished it all with a distinctive refinement and grace. Lute Olson is not only a great coach, he is a truly exceptional teacher and gentleman." - Jay Bilas, ESPN Basketball Analyst

"I am really happy for Lute and I'm really proud of him. We have competed against each other for a number of years and I've always said that he is one of the most difficult coaches to prepare for. His teams are always extremely well coached. They are hard to beat and that is a tribute to his coaching ability. He has been around a long time and has done a lot of great things. His induction into the Hall of Fame is well deserved." - Mike Montgomery, Stanford head coach

"I've known Lute a long, long time and he is the kind guy that we'll hate to see leave coaching because he has good principles and his players are such good people.
"His teams are always fundamentally sound and tough to beat. Few people realize that he may have done his best coaching job last season after his team was decimated by the NBA Draft. In college basketball, you don't always have that reservoir of talent to build on, but Lute was able to get his guys ready to play immediately and be very competitive. The championship seasons always get the accolades and press clippings, but the best coaching jobs often get overlooked. Last season was a remarkable achievement for Lute. He did it as well as anyone last year.
"Lute's got a good program that's built on fundamentals and teaching. He strives for perfection and anytime you use that approach, you are usually successful." - Pete Newell, legendary college basketball coach and Olson's Hall of Fame presenter

"I am so proud of Coach Olson and all that he has accomplished at the U of A. It's really amazing how everything he said has come true. When I came on my recruiting visit he was warning people to buy season tickets now because one day they wouldn't be available. He said we would help build an elite program. Both of those are true.
"The Hall of Fame induction is an honor long overdue. The man hasn't changed in 20 years. The aura of excellence is still there.
"It's been almost 20 years since I played for him, but I just take so much pride in having played for Coach Olson and the University of Arizona." - Pete Williams, UA center, 1983-85

"Lute Olson's brilliant coaching record speaks for itself, and certainly makes him worthy of induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Beyond the record, his program at the University of Arizona has helped advance the Pacific-10 Conference into the elite group of conferences which have members contend for the National Championship each year. Arizona's strength has challenged the other programs in the Pac-10 to become better.
"Off the court, he always has been a constructive and creative force for the improvement of college basketball, nationally and within the Conference. He is adept at solving problems and conceiving better ways to coach and administer the game. He also is supportive of his community and many worthy causes, and extremely devoted to his family. His election adds luster to the Basketball Hall of Fame." - Tom Hansen, Pacific-10 Conference Commissioner

"Of the elite college coaches, Lute Olson may be the only one whose teams lack a distinctive style or personality. I think that's a compliment. He has adapted as well as anyone to changes in personnel and the evolution of the game. No coach has recovered as quickly from player departures, whether it was Damon Stoudamire and Sean Elliott leaving after four seasons or Mike Bibby and Gilbert Arenas leaving after two.
"Arizona always responded to those circumstances with seasons that surprised the critics and competition. The only thing that hasn't changed at Arizona through it all is Olson. He still looks great and coaches even better." - Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News

"The most defining part of Lute Olson's 20 years at the UA is that he changed the self-image of Tucson and the way we look at ourselves. He has made it possible for this isolated pocket of the country to look in the mirror and think: we are winners." - Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star

"For those of us that have spent a lifetime in basketball, it is very rewarding to see someone like Lute inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is one of the really good guys in basketball. What he's done is remarkable in itself. He's won everywhere he's been, and more importantly, he won the right way. The Hall of Fame is the highest award a coach can receive and Lute's induction is well deserved. I am very happy for him." - C.M. Newton, longtime college basketball head coach and former Director of Athletics at the University of Kentucky

"Arizona basketball is Lute Olson. They are one in the same. There's no question that the program would not be one of the elite in the country had Olson not decided to take the challenge in the Southwest. The Wildcats have to recruit nationally and Olson has done a masterful job in luring the top talent or those who fit in to his style to Tucson.
"But that's only half the job. Olson has been one of the most under appreciated tacticians and motivating coaches in the game. Each year the Wildcats aren't supposed to be a power, they still end up in the national title, or at the very least, Pac-10 title race.
"Playing Arizona has become an event for any team in the nation. That's because of Olson. If he were in a major media market then he would have received even more platitudes. Olson has worked under the radar screen to develop one of the best programs in the country, a program that will forever be held in high esteem because of what he did during one of the most illustrious tenures a coach has had at an institution.
"His legacy is simple: without him, Arizona would never have been a national power, a destination for anyone willing to compete for the national title." - Andy Katz, senior college basketball writer, ESPN.com

"Lute Olson is the finest technical basketball coach I ever have seen. His system is both disciplined and structured without being limiting. His players are virtually flawless fundamentally. They improve from one season to the next as much or more as any in college basketball. In his perfectly tailored coat and tie, he looks forbidding and intimidating. But one of the world's biggest hearts beats beneath the surface." - Ken Goe, The Oregonian

"Lute Olson represents class in college basketball. His teams are well-coached, win consistently and show heart. Coach Olson conducts himself in a professional manner on and off the court, but at the same time speaks his mind on the issues. He is a credit to the game. I know of stories of how he has helped other coaches and how he develops players during their careers. He is unquestionably respected by his coaching peers and I believe by most media. He is truly deserving of this honor." - Steve Richardson, Dallas Morning News

"Lute Olson has transformed Arizona into the premier program on the West Coast since he arrived in Tucson in 1983, coaching the Wildcats to nine Pac-10 regular season titles, 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, four Final Fours and a national championship in 1997.
"But, over and above his success on the court and the stars he has produced, he is one of the class acts in college basketball, a principled, family man who gave us all a lesson in life with the way he handled the death of his beloved wife Bobbi.
"The Hall could not have selected a finer candidate. Those of us who know and respect him just wish Bobbi could have been there when he received word he was to receive one of the sport's greatest honors.
"Enjoy the moment, coach." - Dick Weiss, New York Daily News

"Lute Olson is one of the best basketball coaches in the history of the game. He has changed with the game and changed with the times. He never demanded athletes change to his system. He noted their skills and changed his game to find the best way to win. Lute won with a big men when he had guys like Sean Rooks and Ed Stokes. When he lost the big guys, he changed his style to fit the speed of guards like Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire and continued to win conference championships.
"In watching his practices over the last ten years, he's both a professor and communicator. His attention to detail in breaking down an opponent is incredible, yet he still relates so well with 18 to 22 year-olds with humor and easy to understand lessons.
"I think the greatest compliment you can give a coach is that his players were better people when they left him. Lute Olson is that kind of coach." - Steve Physioc, Fox Sports Net College Basketball Commentator

"When I think of Coach Olson, I think of class. He epitomizes class to me in the way he carries himself and the way he represents the program. The program is thought of highly around the country through his efforts. It's almost hard to remember the program before he arrived. He is now one of those coaches like Dean Smith of North Carolina, where when you think of that school, you think of him. There are only a handful of those guys around.
"I think he and Bobbi have done so much for the community and the basketball program. Tucson, in large part, has an identity because of Coach Olson and for what he's meant not only to the basketball program, but the university and the city. That is a direct reflection of what he's about as a person. He does things the right way and means so much to Tucson." - Tom Tolbert, UA center 1986-88, KNBR-AM Radio Host & ABC/ESPN NBA Analyst

"Coach Olson's induction into the Hall of Fame is a great honor that's long overdue. When you look at his accomplishments - five Final Fours, the best winning percentage for more than a decade and the number of NBA Draft picks - it's easy to see why he is one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball.
"There were a lot of great players that came before me and a lot that have come after me. I just tried to continue that tradition, but Coach Olson is the one who molded those players into great teams. He is the one constant." - Miles Simon, UA All-American guard 1994-98, 1997 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player

"Obviously, Coach Olson's induction is long overdue. My question has always been 'How did he not go in on the first ballot? He will go down as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, so it's good that he's finally getting in." - Steve Kerr, UA All-American guard 1983-88

"No one is more deserving of induction than Coach Olson. It's about time. I've been talking about Lute Olson since the day I left Tucson. He taught me so much about the game of basketball. I am extremely grateful for having played for Coach Olson.
"A lot of people have no idea what the program was like before he got here. Coach Olson resurrected it. To take it from 4-24 and go to four Final Fours and win a national championship is an amazing accomplishment.
"When I got into the NBA, I realized that I was fundamentally sound. That wasn't the case with a lot of other players from other programs. All those drills - the things we worked on every single day in practice - helped me to become a better player." - Sean Elliott, UA All-American forward 1985-89, 1989 College Basketball Player of the Year

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