Former Arizona Coach, Hall of Famer Lute Olson Dies at Age 85

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2020

Arizona's head coach Lute Olson, who is on a leave of absence is on hand today to say farewell to his seniors after the game against UCLA at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Mar. 2, 2008. UCLA won, 68 - 66. (AP Photo/John Miller)
John Miller/Associated Press

Former Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson died Thursday at the age of 85, Kelly Olson told Jeff Goodman of Stadium:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Former Arizona coach and Hall of Famer Lute Olson passed way earlier tonight, his wife Kelly told me. Olson was 85 years old. RIP, Coach. My Ode to Lute: https://t.co/MZM7qf8zmP My Ode to Lute:

Arizona Basketball noted the program is "forever indebted" to the legendary coach:

Arizona Basketball @APlayersProgram

Wildcat. Legend. Icon. Lute. Coach Olson - We are forever indebted to you for what you did for our program, university and community. #BearDown https://t.co/aj9rAbAn6y

Olson suffered a stroke in February 2019 and had been unable to fully recover. He also suffered a stroke in 2008.

Anthony Victor Reyes of KVOA Tuscon reported Tuesday the coach was in hospice care and he was in a "fight for his life."

Olson is best known for his 24 seasons coaching the University of Arizona, leading the team to the national championship in 1997 with a team that featured Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Miles Simon. 

He also led the school to four Final Four appearances, the only ones in school history, while adding 11 regular-season titles in the Pac-12.

The Wildcats had only three NCAA tournament appearances before Olson took over in 1983 but the school became a national power by the time he retired in 2007.

Former Wildcats Richard Jefferson, Jason Terry and Steve Kerr took to Twitter on Thursday night to pay tribute to their former coach:

Richard Jefferson @Rjeff24

It’s rare that a man is a Hall of famer and still under appreciated. I’ll always feel like you never got the credit you deserved as a leader, family man, grandfather, coach and as a mentor. I love you Coach O 🐻⬇️

Jason "The Jet" Terry @jasonterry31

With out you there would be no me Rest peacefully #CoachO #BearDown https://t.co/XUTQwuJqNk

Steve Kerr @SteveKerr

It’s hard to put into words how much Lute Olson meant to me.He was an amazing coach & a wonderful man. Being part of the U of A basketball family changed my life forever.I will never forget Coach O, those awesome nights at McKale and all my teammates. Thank you Coach- I love you! https://t.co/GUvtSFr9Lm

Olson also spent time with Cal State Long Beach and Iowa, leading the Hawkeyes to the Final Four in 1980, while totaling 781 wins over his more than three decades in Division I.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.