Olson ready to say farewell again Print
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Wednesday, 04 March 2009 13:45
NCAAB Headline News


 TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -Lute Olson said farewell in a press release last October. On Thursday night, Arizona's Hall of Famer will have a chance to do it in person.
The Wildcats will honor Olson at halftime of their game against California on the court named for Olson and his late wife, Bobbi.
``It's going to be a very emotional night from my standpoint, to be down courtside,'' Olson said Wednesday. ``I guess it's the reality that the time here is done. It'll just be a finality to it that'll be very obvious to me.''
The 74-year-old Olson held his first news conference since his unexpected retirement in October. Wearing a blue-and-white striped button-down shirt, Olson spoke deliberately during the 40-minute session with reporters, covering a wide range of topics.
n seems at a loss to cope with life after basketball.
``I feel like I'm more edgy, and I don't know why that would be,'' he said. ``I just need to deal with this time away from something I'm used to.''
Later, he chuckled and said, ``I need to find more good books to read, especially with the heat now.''
Olson announced his retirement in a press release last Oct. 23; the move came as a shock because Olson had, earlier in the week, said he was energized to return to the sideline after missing the 2007-08 season on a personal leave of absence.
Within days, Olson's doctor, Steven Knope, said that the coach had a stroke within the previous year and that Knope had advised him to retire.
Olson said Wednesday he had little choice but to follow his doctor's advice.
``That was really very difficult to do,'' he said. ``It was frankly not my decision at that point.''
Olson said his doctor laid out a scenario for him: ``You could (coach) but you might drop on the sideline.''
Asked how the last few months had been for him, Olson replied, ``They've been tough. It's been difficult, just from the standpoint - the health aspect, getting all the medications straightened out and going through more tests than I'd like to tell you about.''
o-hour walks and an hour more on an elliptical machine.
``I feel good,'' Olson said. ``I spend a lot of the day exercising.''
The last 18 months have been difficult for Olson.
Shortly before the 2007-08 season tipped off, Olson announced he was taking a personal leave of absence for what he later termed ``a medical condition that was not life-threatening.''
Olson returned to the job last spring and said he planned to coach for the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2011.
Olson also went through a contentious divorce from his wife, Christine.
Then came his sudden decision to step down last October.
Olson said he has few plans and that his challenge is ``to be productive even though I'm retired.''
He expects to devote some of his free time to charities. Olson also said he would provide advice, at the request of university president Robert Shelton, to school officials as they seek his permanent successor.
Asked what he would tell the next coach, Olson smiled and said, ``Be ready to work your butt off.''
``I hope the fans will be patient with him,'' Olson added.
The fans have been supportive of interim coach Russ Pennell, who took over when Olson stepped down.
ament appearances, 24 and counting.
Olson, who praised the work of Pennell and his staff, has regularly attended home games and said he often watches road games on television.
``It's nerve-racking,'' he said.
Perhaps it's no surprise that it has been difficult for Olson to separate himself from the program he built out of the desert sand. Arizona had won one conference title in the 29 seasons before Olson arrived from Iowa in 1983.
Olson went 589-187 at Arizona, leading the Wildcats to the 1997 national championship and four Final Fours, most recently in 2001.
He paused when asked if it seemed as if his quarter-century at Arizona had gone by quickly.
``When you look back on it, like the blinking of an eye,'' Olson said.
 

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