When Lute Olson left the University of Iowa to coach the University of Arizona men's basketball team, even the most loyal fan of the program could not have envisioned the type of success he would have.
He revived not only the U of A program but the entire Pac-10 conference. His success led to the other programs having to improve just so they could compete against his high octane Arizona teams.
When teams caught up with his style of plodding big men like Sean Rooks and Ed Stokes he changed his style. What followed was a string of point guards that found jobs in professional basketball and his only title in 1997 when Miles Simon had a magical run through the tourney.
Lute Olson became bigger than the program and as the years wore on, the end of his career loomed over not only him but the entire city of Tucson. Lute Olson deserved to have one last season to celebrate what meant not only to the city of Tucson but also to the nation as an innovative basketball coach.
If we had known his last season was 2007 then a tough loss to Purdue in the first round would have all the more bittersweet. There should have been a celebration all throughout Tucson, the Pac-10 and the nation. There should have been closure for the end of a Hall of Fame coaches career.
The mistakes of the last two years will cure themselves over time. Jim Livengood was not going to be the man who stood up to Lute Olson and in leaving that door open for his return, two recruiting classes have been lost.
The number of NCAA tournament appearances has stretched to 25 but even the most loyal fans of the program will be hard pressed to dream about a 26th straight trip next season.
With the hiring of Sean Miller, the end of the Lute Olson era has finally come to Tucson and it should have been handled better by Lute Olson himself.
A man of such class and dignity had no right to turn what should have been a celebration of his career into the two year fiasco that followed where the closure of his career was an ominous 39 point loss to Louisville in the 2009 Sweet 16.
Ominous of what might lie ahead for the once mighty Arizona basketball program. A program built by Lute Olson, destroyed by Lute Olson and now up to Sean Miller to wade through a re-building process that even the most loyal of Arizona fans can only hope will last a season or two.
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