After lunch on a Tuesday afternoon, March 29, 1983, Lute Olson arrived at McKale Center driving a Buick Park Avenue, dark blue. The sticker price from Royal Buick was still in the window: $16,700.
Four days earlier in Kansas City, Olson coached Iowa in the Sweet 16, a 55-54 loss to Villanova.
Arizona had a coaching vacancy. It had gone 4-24 in the 1982-23 season. Athletic director Cedric Dempsey, on the job for seven months, aimed high. Three years earlier, Olson had coached Iowa to the Final Four.
The Lohse Room on the third floor of McKale Center was at capacity as Olson and his wife, Bobbi, fashionably late, walked in for his welcome-to-Tucson press conference.
What was he possibly thinking, leaving a Sweet 16 program for one that had gone 1-17 in the Pac-10?
"As I left the press conference Friday in Kansas City, our athletic director, Bump Elliott, met me as he does after every game. He told me someone from the University of Arizona was here to talk to me about their opening," Olson said.
"We’d just lost. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I agreed. But when we talked Friday night, I didn’t really think I would come out here."
Dempsey and UA donors worked fast; Olson was in Tucson by Sunday. He accepted the job late that night. He flew back to Iowa City, then returned to Tucson a day later for his press conference.
He was given a one-year contract worth $64,000; incentives would push it to about $150,000 per year.
"When the time comes to get out of coaching in five or seven or 10 years, you decide where you want to live, and we wanted to be in the West," he said. "I’m not all worried about a one-year contract. That’s why I have this twitch in my right eye."
Everybody laughed. This would be a long and memorable ride.
Olson was 48 that day. He would coach at Arizona for the next 24 years, becoming the most identifiable person in Tucson history. He was not a "no comment" type, nor afraid to take on hot shots like the Pac-10 commissioner or opposing coaches.
Here’s my ranking of the 10 most memorable Olson quotes of those 24 seasons: