People have had over 24 hrs now to think about the ramifications of Lute Olson’s sudden retirement yesterday. Reading through the various reports and testimonials on Lute’s career, we were struck by how many Arizona fans are absolutely livid with Olson’s handling of the past year or so. While we’ve been the first around here to scold Olson publicly for his certifiable insanity of the past year, we sorta figured that UA fans would be a little more gracious for you know, creating something out of nothing, as a whole. Guess not.
Here’s what some folks, both MSM and blogosphere, are saying…
Pat Forde, ESPN - Why can’t anyone else do that these days? What has happened to the graceful exit? Lute Olson is the latest college coaching legend to thoroughly bollix his closing act. The Arizona basketball coach’s retirement was announced Thursday, ending a 12-month saga that did considerable damage to his remarkable rep. […] For the second straight season, Olson pulled the rug out from under his program at the worst possible time. For the second straight season, the school was left squirming to explain the erratic actions of a legend — at times seemingly compelled to fib on Olson’s behalf. For the second straight season, Arizona basketball has been thrown into turmoil by the very man who breathed life into it. Sadly, a guy who projected an aura of control and composure has turned his exit from basketball into an absolute mess. Even sadder is the fact that Olson is merely the latest in a line of college coaching legends who don’t seem to know when or how to walk away.
Nowahoo, Thirty-Five Seconds – While it’s tempting to say that you or I would have handled our health or personal problems better, I think we know that’s wishful thinking. The standards we (or at least Pat Forde) set for others in their final acts is kind of a joke. Almost all of us will retire someday, but almost none of us will do so in a satisfying way. Most of us will retire when we can’t make the commute anymore because of a slipped disc that never healed right, or when the people we work with stop giving us worthwhile work, or when the thought of one more condescending continuing ed seminar gives us the howling fantods to the point where we just fire off a retirement memo and hope we’ve enough in the kitty (or at least educated the shit out of our kids, so we can flip the script get our mooch on).
Paola Boivin, Arizona Republic - A coach’s final ride into the sunset should be a leisurely gait, not a series of angry bucks and sudden halts. Lute Olson’s brilliant coaching career, which came to a sudden end when he announced his retirement Thursday, will not be remembered without an unflattering footnote. When he had the opportunity to bow out gracefully from the basketball dynasty he built at the University of Arizona, he chose instead to let his final months be defined by conjecture, defiance, silence. It shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments, but the ending does reflect Mark Twain’s perfect description of golf: a good walk spoiled.
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports – Truth be told, I never spoke with a person close to Olson during the past year who believed it was a good idea for him to return to the sideline. Most who know him well recognized a noticeable change in recent months, and now seems like as good a time as any to revisit a scene from what turned out to be Olson’s last game as a coach.
Dashiell Bennett, Deadspin – Perhaps that’s because he decided to inform more important people first. The order of ranking goes something like this—insane color commentator, then the assistant coaches, then the families of the high school kids you are recruiting, your ex-wife, the mailman, the guy who runs the wax dispenser down at the car wash … then if there’s time, you tell your team and maybe your employers. It’s important that you respect the process.
Andy Katz, ESPN – On Monday, Chase Budinger gave maybe the most detailed description of Olson’s demeanor last year: “It was tough because in the beginning he really never gave the team an explanation of why he left. He felt very fatigued all the time. He looked tired.” Budinger said there were times prior to when Olson took his leave of absence that he would make mistakes on the practice court. He said the coach simply wasn’t right. “He kind of seemed like he was depressed all the time, it was kind of hard for him to coach out on the court,” Budinger said.
Dick Vitale, ESPN - No one has been a bigger supporter of what he has done in Tucson. He is the ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright and has built the program into something very special over the years. Arizona had been in the depths of despair, and he took the school to greatness. There was an excitement in the desert that was so special.
Zach, Northwestern Wins – This entire operation has been botched. How do two fathers of Arizona recruits know the news, ESPN gets a gift-wrapped scoop on the news….yet prominent players like Jordan Hill and some administration have no idea where this story is coming from. It would have been wise to hold a team meeting this morning to alert the Wildcats and let the entire staff know before this leaked out (I know, easier said than done) rather than have members of the team “not knowing a damn thing” and spending the entire day thinking Lute Olson was their coach when I heard the news around 11:30 AM central time.
Scott Bordow, East Valley (AZ) Tribune – Olson is not leaving Arizona gracefully. Players, recruits and, most certainly, Kevin O’Neill, have every reason to be upset about how he’s handled himself the past year. UA is in disarray, and he’s responsible. But once those emotions subside, he’ll be remembered for his accomplishments rather than his departure. He came to a basketball Siberia 25 years ago and turned it into a winter wonderland.
Grant Wahl, CNNSI – I did interviews with his assistant and did speak with Olson last Wednesday for half an hour. It was clear at that point that he wasn’t as energized as he had been in April when he announced that he was coming back. I left that meeting thinking something might be up, and so I’m not entirely surprised by this news.
Achilles, (UCLA) Bruins Nation - While I’ve rooted hard against Lute Olson’s teams over the years, I’ve great respect for what he accomplished. Arizona was not a basketball powerhouse when he went there, but he turned them into one. At their peak, Arizona teams played exciting, uptempo basketball. Olson also deserves respect as a top recruiter with an eye for talent. More than anything else, it is sort of sad to see him go out the way he is now. Try and find his most recent press appearances on an Arizona site or YouTube. He’s become practically incoherent and appears to be in poor health. I’ll personally prefer to remember him as a fiery, rival coach, prowling the sidelines for some really great UCLA-Arizona match-ups.
Vince Marotta, Arizona Sports Hub - According to various sources, the fathers of two members of the 2009 Arizona recruiting class, Solomon Crawford (father of recruit Solomon Hill) and Abdul Gaddy’s father, Abdul Sr. both received information that Olson was retiring. Further judging from the reports, nobody from the University, nor the current players or their families were notified about anything. How do recruits know this information before the guys who already suit up for the Wildcats?