Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Has Lute Olson lost it?
Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson held a welcome back news conference Tuesday and he came out firing. It was Olson unlike most have ever seen him. I'm not sure if I like this new Lute.
First he called out Arizona Daily Star basketball beat writer Bruce Pascoe, calling him "Columbo" when referring to him asking questions and digging around about the real reason Olson was gone.
He then had an exchange with Tucson Citizen writer Rennee Schafer Horton over a story that may or may not have ran in The Citizen.
Next he attacked long time adversary Greg Hanson.
"There's a lot of things I wouldn't go through you with, too. Because I've seen and heard plenty of things." Olson said when asked about why he went out side the U of A SID office while he was on leave. "So the good thing is you're (Hanson) not going to have to talk to me and I'm not going to have to talk to you. We're back where we were a few years ago."
Olson was referring to a long time feud and dislike between the two. No one seems to be sure when this dates back to, but the running story is it started when Olson was close to going to Kentucky in the mid 1990s. According to his book "LUTE! Seasons of my Life" Olson mended fences with Hanson as one of the dieing wishes of his first wife Bobbi.
Olson then talked about Kevin O'Neil, all but saying he would not return.
"I said, 'Kevin, I don't know what your feeling is — do you want to be an assistant here for three more years, five more years?' He said no," Olson said. "He said, 'No, my preference would be a good-level college basketball program and, if not, become an assistant in the pros."
This lead to another testy exchange with Pascoe, when Olson wouldn't say who he would hire to replace O'Neil, because O'Neil is still on staff today. And that's they way it went for almost an hour. Olson and Pascoe had it out at least two more times.
So the question should be asked has Olson lost it? To me the answer is maybe. In this case Olson is getting a pass, locally because he is so beloved and nationally because he is thought of as being such a good guy.
I mean, let's face it, if this was Bobby Knight he would be getting hell for it. Kight has gotten hell for less. But Olson is not Knight and he's not getting it. At least not yet.
Maybe he should be.
There is no doubt that Olson came off somewhat of a bully. He attacked members of the media, who couldn't really go anywhere, who couldn't really answer him back and who were only really doing there jobs.
This entire issue could have been avoided if Olson had been more open about why he was gone. But he choose not to.
"Frankly, even though I realize I'm a public figure, I don't think I need to go into every nuance of my private life," Olson said. "There were things going on in my life that did create some health issues that I needed time to address. But it was not a health scare, which is what I really tried to articulate early on."
Worse yet, this what most people feared when debating what to write and what not to write when it came to the Olson issue. If you get black balled your done. Yet if you do not write the news, your done then too.
So were do we go from here? With any luck, it's all over. The issue is dead. Someone will replace Kevin O'Neil and O'Neil will not be the next coach at Arizona. Olson will calm down over the next few weeks and by the time next season comes along all the tension with the local media and Olson will be long gone.
With any luck, all will be good in Wildcat land.