Regarding Chase and Jerryd, what is your gut feeling about next season?
I can't guess on that. It's like I told the Baylesses, they as parents, and the Budingers, have an obligation to get as much information as they can in their hands. I will get as much information as I can in my hands and it'll be laid on the table. Jerryd is a very intelligent kid. Chase is a very intelligent kid. But it's not their parents' life, it's not my life. No one should make their decision for them. Could we help them next year? No question. And that's one of the things they will say. But it's still their decision. I have never - and you can check with any of the guys in the program - told them to go or to stay. I've only presented the information.
I'm not going to guess what is in their minds. I think they like the university. I think they know the NBA will be there a year from now and I think their position would be much, much better than what it is now, and I've told them that. But I've not told them that they need to stay.
The primary theme from all of the players was that, "Coach, we came here to play a wide-open style of basketball," and they thought that would help them get to where many of our players have gotten. This was the discussion only after I officially came back.
Throughout the leave, was there a time where you questioned whether you would or could come back?
I had talked with Dr. (Robert) Shelton (UA president) and Jim Livengood (UA athletic director) because they felt that there had to be some kind of timetable. It couldn't be a case of suddenly I come back in February or something, so we agreed that by the first of the year I should make a decision as to whether I was ready to come back or not. I was not at that point.
The reason that I took the leave was because I didn't feel that I could be fair to the kids. Despite what maybe some of you think, the main thing that I have in my 50 or 51 years has been the concern for the kids.
Physically, I could have come back in February, but that would have been very disruptive to everything had been done, so there was no way I was going to come back at that point.
Through my lifetime, if I was ever going to have bouts of anxiety, I think I would have had those when Bobbi died after 47 years of marriage (Jan. 1, 2001). I was in shock just like everyone else was.
Have you heard from other coaches since you decided to come back?
When I requested the leave, I said this is a personal issue and that people will honor my request for privacy. You probably would have a hard time naming a coach that didn't send an e-mail to me and the calls that I've had since I decided to come back have been more than I could tell you.
What these kids - the pressure they go through as 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, I can tell you that I couldn't be more proud of how this group handled everything. You never saw them complaining. I don't think they said anything publicly to any of you about anything other than discussing the game, and I have great respect for them.
Do you worry about negative recruiting over the leave?
People have been negatively recruiting me for the last 10 or 12 years. The interesting thing is that there aren't any of those coaches left in the conference that were here at that time who were telling our recruits that the University of Arizona is a great place to go, but Coach O isn't going to be there (for long). They're all gone and I'm still here.
How do you think the University handled your leave?
I think they handled it well because it was a personal matter and they protected my personal issues. I thought they handled it very professionally. Lute 4
How much are you looking forward to next season?
I am really excited. I was ready to go out the day after I spoke to our players because I knew how excited they were. Lute 6 I hope that you can see that I feel great.