Olsen’s doctor said he’s had a stroke over the past year, and advised him to retire. Dr. Steven Knope made the comments at a press conference called by Olsen’s family, clearing the air and adding reasoning to otherwise baffling behavior.
As I watched ESPN Classic’s Tribute to Lute Olsen, I wondered what happened to the coach that produced some of college basketball’s best teams. The coach that sent many players on to be prolific pros; Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, to name a few.
I wondered what was behind Olsen’s year-long hiatus from the Arizona program he had built over the past 24 years.
While my mind ran ramped on the possibilities, I saw a Pat Forde column ripping the coach for his irractic behavior, contrasting his sudden exit with that of John Wooden, stating that Olsen’s resignation was classless in comparison.
Forde said Olsen played part in a slew of disgraceful departures by coaches. He left a window for failing health to be the cause of Olsen’s behavior, but why chastise before all the facts play out.
Olsen obviously wasn’t a fleet footed coach looking for other opportunities, having been at Arizona since 1983. Sure, players come to a school for their coach, and Olsen’s resignation could have had better timing, but there was no doubt that he’d earned the right to be a bit aloof. A year-long leave of absence followed by his resignation two days after attending media day wasn’t exactly ideal, but neither is his current condition.
The Hall of Fame coach has produced an enviable body of work over his 34-year coaching career. At 74 years old he still yearned to coach, and wanted to continue on with his 2008-09 team. It’s sad to see such fire put out without Olsen’s consent.