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Lute Olson Selected for Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/05/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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June 5, 2002

LOS ANGELES - University of Arizona head coach Lute Olson was one of five individuals and one team selected for enshrinement Wednesday into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

A native of Mayville, N.D., Olson earned his piece of basketball immortality with a coaching career that spans 43 seasons and includes nearly 1,000 career victories. A success at every stop along his career, Olson has won more than 70 percent of his games on the high school, junior college and NCAA Division I level. He was a finalist for enshrinement in 2000 and 2001 and is joined in the Class of 2002 by players Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Drazen Petrovic, coaches Larry Brown and Kay Yow, and the Harlem Globetrotters.

For the last 32 years, Olson has served as a head coach at the collegiate level, compiling a 767-255 (.750) overall record at Long Beach (Calif.) City College, Long Beach State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Arizona. Olson, who is the seventh winningest active Division I coach, holds the distinction of being one of eight coaches in college history to coach in five or more Final Fours and is one of 11 coaches who have taken two different teams to the Final Four (Arizona, 1988, 1994, 1997, 2001; Iowa, 1980). His 23 NCAA Tournament appearances are third most among active coaches and his 39 NCAA victories are third most among active coaches and sixth all-time. His 1997 Arizona squad captured the National Championship with an 84-79 overtime win over Kentucky.

"I think it ranks right up there with the NCAA Championship and the 1986 World Championship," said Olson. "This is definitely one of the special things that has happened in my career. I am very thankful for the recognition and opportunity for enshrinement. I want to thank Bobbi and my family for their sacrifices in addition to the former assistant coaches and former players who also share in this honor as well."

Olson has 26 winning seasons in 29 years of coaching on the NCAA Division I level and has led UA to 15 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 24 overall in his career, making him one of only five head coaches in NCAA history to record 24 or more 20-win seasons. A master of player development, Olson has produced 44 NBA Draft picks, including 25 at Arizona.

He became the head coach at Arizona on March 29, 1983, and in 19 seasons in Tucson has compiled a 471-143 (.767) record and over the last 15 seasons has posted the nation's best winning percentage (.805, 401-97). Olson has led Arizona to nine Pacific-10 Conference championships and four league postseason tournament crowns. He has the fourth most Pac-10 victories (262) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washington's Hec Edmundson (266, 1921-47). He has the second-best conference winning percentage in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74) and has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year six times (1986, '88, '89, '93, '94, '98).

Under Olson, UA's 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the longest current streak in college basketball and is second longest in NCAA history. Arizona has been to the NCAA Sweet 16 nine times in the last 15 years.

As head coach at Iowa, Olson led the Hawkeyes to the 1979 Big Ten Conference championship and five consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Included in that run was a berth in the 1980 Final Four. For his efforts, Olson earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors twice (1979 & '81).

"Going back to our first staff meeting at Iowa, I sensed something special in Coach Olson," said UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough, an Olson aide for 22 seasons. "In my opinion, he is one of the four or five best coaches ever. He has been highly successful at two difficult places, is a master technician, and an excellent recruiter. He's one of the best ever and has done it surrounded by family and with a great deal of class." He also won gold medals in international competition as the United States head coach for 1984 Jones Cup and 1986 World Championship teams. His '86 squad was the last U.S. team to win a major international basketball competition made up of collegiate players.

He earned the John R. Wooden "Legends of Coaching" and the Clair Bee Coach-of-the-Year awards in 2001 and earned national Coach-of-the-Year honors in 1988 and 1990 as well. Olson was inducted into the Pima County (Ariz.) Sports Hall of Fame and in 2001 was inducted into the Two Harbors (Minn.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Olson was born on a farm just outside Mayville, 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. 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 junior college crown and was the conference coach of the year in each of his three seasons. Following that, he became the head coach at Long Beach State for one season (1973-74), where he went 24-2. That got the attention of Iowa, which hired him for the next season.

"This recognition is for everyone, including the fans of the University of Arizona, who have been so influential over the past 19 years," Olson said. "I know that my family is very excited and I'm sure the current and former assistants and players are excited about and share in the immense pride that I feel."

Olson was married to the former Roberta (Bobbi) Russell for 47 years. Bobbi passed away in January 2001. Olson has five grown children -- daughters Vicki, Jodi and Christi, and sons Greg and Steve - and 14 grandchildren.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2002 will enshrined on Friday, Sept. 27, 2002, in Springfield, Mass. The six inductees represent the 44th group to enter the Hall of Fame since 1959.

Lute Olson's Year-By-Year Record on the NCAA Division I Level

School            Year   	Record  Pct.	Conf.	Finish 	Postseason
Long Beach State  1973-74	24-2	.923
Iowa              1974-75	10-16	.385	7-11	7th
Iowa	          1975-76	19-10	.655	9-9	5th
Iowa      	  1976-77	20-7	.741	12-6	4th
Iowa	          1977-78	12-15	.444	5-13	8th
Iowa	          1978-79	20-8	.714	13-5	1st	NCAA Mideast 1st Round
Iowa	          1979-80	23-10	.697	10-8 	4th	NCAA Final Four
Iowa	          1980-81	21-7	.750	13-5	2nd	NCAA Midwest 2nd Round
Iowa	          1981-82	21-8	.724	12-6 	2nd	NCAA West 2nd Round
Iowa	          1982-83	22-9	.710	10-8 	T2nd	NCAA Midwest Regional
Arizona           1983-84	11-17	.393	8-10	8th
Arizona	          1984-85	21-10	.677	12-6	T3rd	NCAA West 1st Round
Arizona    	  1985-86	23-9	.719	14-4	1st	NCAA West 1st Round
Arizona	          1986-87	18-12	.600	13-5	2nd	NCAA West 1st Round
Arizona	          1987-88	35-3	.921	17-1	1st	NCAA Final Four
Arizona	          1988-89	29-4	.879	17-1	1st	NCAA West Regional
Arizona	          1989-90	25-7	.781	15-3	T1st	NCAA West 2nd Round
Arizona	          1990-91	28-7	.800	14-4	1st	NCAA West Regional
Arizona	          1991-92	24-7	.774	13-5	3rd	NCAA Southeast 1st Round
Arizona	          1992-93	24-4	.857	17-1	1st	NCAA West 1st Round
Arizona	          1993-94	29-6	.829	14-4	1st	NCAA Final Four
Arizona	          1994-95	24-7	.774	14-4	2nd	NCAA Midwest 1st Round
Arizona	          1995-96	27-6	.818	14-4	2nd	NCAA West Regional
Arizona	          1996-97	25-9	.735	11-7	5th	NCAA Champions
Arizona	          1997-98	30-5	.857	17-1	1st	NCAA West Regional Final
Arizona	          1998-99	22-7	.759	13-5	2nd	NCAA Midwest Regional
Arizona	          1999-2000	27-7	.794	15-3	T1st	NCAA West 2nd Round
Arizona	          2000-01	25-6*	.806	12-2*	2nd	NCAA Runner-up
Arizona	          2001-02	24-10	.706	12-6	T2nd	NCAA West Regional
Overall	          29 years	663-235	.738

Arizona 19 years 471-143 .767 262-76 .775 Iowa 9 years 167-91 .647 91-71 .561 Long Beach State 1 year 24-2 .923

* Reflects Arizona record with Olson on the sideline. UA was 28-8 overall and 15-3 in the Pac-10. Olson took a five-game leave of absence during the year. Associate head coach Jim Rosborough is credited with a 3-2 record in that span.

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