Lute Olson, who coached Arizona to the 1997 NCAA Tournament championship and recorded 781 career wins over 34 seasons in Division I, died Thursday. He was 85.
Olson’s family confirmed his death Thursday evening.
Olson joined Arizona in 1982 after leading Iowa to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a berth in the 1980 Final Four. He spent the next 24 seasons in charge of the Wildcats, turning the program into a national power. Arizona won 11 Pac-10 regular-season championships and four conference tournament titles under him. It made the Final Four on four occasions.
The 1997 title team, a fourth seed in the Southeast Region, knocked off three No. 1 seeds in the tournament, beginning with Kansas in the Sweet 16 and continuing with North Carolina in the Final Four and Kentucky in the championship game. Its top players — Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Jason Terry and Miles Simon — reached the NBA. Also on that team was a freshman named Josh Pastner, the current head coach at Georgia Tech.
Olson began his Division I coaching career in 1973 with Long Beach State. He was there for one year, going 24-2, and then moved to Iowa. He was named The Sporting News national Coach of the Year in 1980 for leading the Hawkeyes to the Final Four. They lost to eventual national champion Louisville.
Olson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He retired in October 2008