TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill said Lute Olson will return soon from his personal leave of absence.
``He will be back shortly,'' O'Neill said Monday at a campus news conference. ``We all know that and our job is to go about our business day to day until he is back.''
No date has been set for the 73-year-old Olson's return. He left the program on Nov. 4, citing undisclosed personal reasons.
O'Neill said he spoke with Olson over the weekend.
``The conversation did not include any basketball,'' O'Neill said. ``There is no new information. There is nothing new.''
Until Olson returns, the Wildcats will be led by O'Neill, his top assistant. The 17th-rated Wildcats opener their season at home against Northern Arizona on Tuesday night.
A year ago, O'Neill was still being paid by the Indiana Pacers, for whom he worked as an assistant coach. He was living in New York and taking care of his ailing mother.
Replacing Olson was not one of his options. But it became a reality when O'Neill, who coached with Olson at Arizona from 1986-89, was hired last summer as the Wildcats' chief assistant.
``I learned through coaching different places that basketball is basketball and you should expect the unexpected and be willing to do whatever you have to do to help the team win,'' O'Neill said. ``I am going to do whatever I have to in order to try to help up win as many games as we can.''
O'Neill's task for the time being is to make sure a young team does not overlook Northern Arizona, and that they play hard.
``Sometimes players don't act like mature players and when you look past somebody that is when you lose,'' O'Neill said.
O'Neill has not acted like a substitute teacher. He's pushed the Wildcats to play harder than they did in their two exhibition victories.
``I don't think our guys play hard,'' O'Neill said. ``I think we play hard about 70-75 percent of the time. Our goal is to play hard on every possession of every practice and every possession of every game. If we do that as a basketball team we will have a chance to improve.''
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