Itís 2009. Do you know where your Hall of Fame coach is?
As the calendar turns we face our first trip around the sun without Lute Olson as the head menís basketball coach at the University of Arizona since the invention of the sundial.
OK, it only seems that way. But when a 24-year era comes to a close it takes a while to properly categorize it, especially when itís been 24 good years.
Over the last few seasons there was talk that Lute was damaging his legacy by hanging on too long. But thatís not how it works.
When Don Haskins passed away did they talk about how he was 53-55 his last four years at UTEP? No, they focused on the ďGlory RoadĒ 1966 national championship team. When Bobby Knightís final bio is written he wonít be the grumpy Texas Tech coach with ads all over his shirt. Heíll be the three-time NCAA champion who won more games than anyone.
Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards. John Robinson coaching at UNLV. It has been proven time after time that in this country you have to try really hard Ė like O.J. hard Ė to use up all the goodwill gained from a successful career in sports.
No, when todayís Wildcat fans become tomorrowís old Wildcat fans the last few years of Lute Olsonís Arizona tenure will be comfortably ignored. No one is going to remember or care about the post-Bobbi era. Not when there are so many good memories to go around.
If you lop off the early building and the late un-building youíre left with a run from 1986-2003 when Coach O guided the Wildcats to ten Pac-10 championships. During that span he finished first or second in the league every year but one. Since that one just happened to be 1997 it means that for 18 years the UA was first or second in either the Pac-10 or the nation every single year.
Lute was at his absolute postseason peak from 1994-2001. He went 6-2 in the first round, 5-1 in the second round, 4-1 in the third round, and 3-1 in the regional finals. He made the championship game twice, and brought home our schoolís most prized sports possession. All told thatís a .750 winning percentage over eight years on the gameís biggest stage.
He tied Bobby Knight for the most NCAA tournament coaching appearances ever with 28. His 23 consecutive tournament appearances tied Dean Smithís all-time record.
At Arizona. An old WAC school.
This was our golden era, the Good Old Days. Even if a future coach takes us back to the mountain top it wonít be quite the same as the first time.
So donít let the current standings cloud your perspective. Continue to celebrate the legacy of Lute Olson. If you donít feel up to it now, donít worry, you will soon. As the years pass youíll realize what a great privilege it was to be a fan of this program for that time.
And if you get a chance to talk to Coach O, donít ask him about his health. Donít pry about his relationship status. Just say thank you. Thank you for putting Tucson on the athletic map.
Thank you for the Good Old Days.
As far as these days, unfortunately things look closer to the worst-case end of the scenario spectrum. The Stanford game was exactly the type of game we were worried about. It was a four-point game late in the first half when Jordan Hill joined Nic Wise on the bench with two fouls apiece. Suddenly it was a nine-point halftime deficit and it all unraveled from there. Such is life with an ultra-thin roster.
But you have to give the team one more weekend before declaring McKale Center a disaster area. If we even our conference record this week you can keep hoping for the best. But if we lose to either Oregon school at home itíll be time to board up the windows, load up on canned food and prepare to ride out the storm.
Whatever happens, fear not. Weíre just The Next Lute Olson away from starting the Good New Days.
UA Sports index
Dang Fun Home