Lute Olson's unanticipated announcement of retirement taking effect immediately has left the Arizona Basketball program in lurch. Olson the Hall of Fame coach that built, "The Dynasty in the Desert" has left so many alumni and fans to question, "Why now?" Why just less than a week after he announced that he was healthy and anxious to get full time practices underway? I don't know the answers to these and many other questions that now surround the program.
The melt down last spring by Lute might have been the first sign of him, slipping. He was out of sorts and combative on a radio talk show. Maybe he should have announced his retirement then. That would have given the program and its faithful the opportunity to mourn the loss of its greatest coach, but also give the AD the chance to do a national search for his successor. Instead Lute announced his comeback and the firing of Kevin O’Neil, his previously announced "successor." Fans and Alumni alike were happy to hear that Coach O was going to return because Arizona hadn't suffered through a year like last year since the 83-84 season, Coach Olson's first year. No one, I mean no one in Tucson wanted another year without their beloved Coach.
The timing is the biggest issue for me to understand. I was discussing this year's outlook of Arizona's team with another Arizonafan at Hooter's when the ESPN bottom line announced Olson stepping down. Since it was announced by Dick Vitale, I presumed it was wrong. Dick never was a Lute Olson fan, and Lute certainly didn't care for "Dukie V." Lute made that very obvious. I made some phone calls to friends in Tucson to find out that the story was in fact true. My outlook on the season dropped immediately. I questioned what this means to the team. The recruits that committed to Arizonaare now reconsidering their commitments. Abdul Gaddy the prize recruit that committed, decommitted, and then recommitted with the announcement of Lute returning has said he'd consider reopening his recruitment. Why? That's the question everyone has to be asking at this point. Is it Health related? I'm inclined to think it has to be. I don't buy the idea of spending more time with the family as the excuse. He's surrounded by family in Tucsonand always has been. Did the divorce wear him out? Possibly, divorces can be stressful and mentally draining events. I think we’ll get more information in the next few weeks. The choice of Mike Dunlap to take over in the interim is an excellent choice. He’s a proven winner that knows the game. I believe that with Reggie Geary and Russ Pennell working with him this year’s team won’t let the fans down. They will play hard and compete with anyone. I believe they will also keep the consecutive tournament appearance streak alive.
I look forward to finding out exactly what is wrong with Coach Olson and wish him well. He’s a great man and a Hall of Fame Coach.