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Legendary Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson dead at 85

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Posted at 9:58 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 23:58:42-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Lute Olson, a legendary University of Arizona basketball coach who led to the Wildcats to the winningest streak in their history, has died at the age of 85, his family says.

Lute Olson was the soul of Tucson. Revered by the community, regarded as one of college basketball's greatest coaches of all-time, Olson brought a sense of pride to Arizona’s basketball program, and to southern Arizona.

He led the Wildcats to four final four appearances including a national championship, and an amazing 23 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

Yet the legendary Arizona wildcat basketball coach didn't arrive in Tucson until he was close to fifty years old.

Olson was born in North Dakota and began his career coaching high school teams, first in Minnesota, then in California.

Olson taught his teams to want more - to reach for a dream - and drive for perfection. He compiled a 24-2 record in his only season at Long Beach State.

That was followed by the University of Iowa, where he led the Hawkeyes to the 1980 Final Four.

Three years later, Olson surprised the college basketball world, leaving the Big Ten power for an Arizona Wildcat program coming off a 4-24 season.

Olson made a bold statement, advising fans in April of 1983 that they should get their tickets now.

Just two years later, Arizona was a winner.

Olson turned down other college opportunities, saying that Tucson was his home. He would also decline offers from the NBA.

“I love coaching college guys because you can just see them grow from kids to young men before they move on,” he said in a 2016 interview.

His first Wildcat Final four team came in 1988. It was a beloved group made up of not just basketball stars, but those who would be successful in other walks of life – including record producer Harvey Mason, baseball great Kenny Lofton and of course, Steve Kerr.