Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Former Arizona Wildcats basketball coach Lute Olson in good condition after suffering minor stroke
editor's pick

Former Arizona Wildcats basketball coach Lute Olson in good condition after suffering minor stroke

  • Updated

Former UA basketball coach Lute Olson, with ex-Wildcat Harvey Mason at the Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp in 2017.

Former University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson is in good condition after suffering a minor stroke over the weekend, his physician said.

The 84-year-old Olson was admitted to Banner University Medical Center-Tucson on Saturday. David Labiner, chairman of the UA department of neurology, said Olson “is expected to make a full recovery but will likely need some rehabilitation therapy after his discharge from the hospital.”

The hospital offered no further details.

A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Olson is the winningest coach in UA basketball history. He led the Wildcats to the 1997 NCAA championship in basketball, the crowning moment to date in UA athletics history, and his teams also played in three other Final Fours (1988, 1994 and 2001).

Over 24 seasons at Arizona between 1983 and 2007, Olson went 589-187 and won 11 Pac-10 championships before retiring amid health concerns in October 2008.

Olson announced in October 2007 he was taking an indefinite leave of absence for what he called a “medical condition that is not life-threatening,” and wound up missing the entire season.

Olson returned to coaching in April 2008 but retired permanently six months later. In the days following his retirement, Olson’s personal physician, Steven Knope, said the coach had suffered a small stroke in the previous year, one that likely resulted in depression and changes in judgment. That stroke occurred in Olson’s frontal lobe, Knope said, an area that controls executive function and serves as a center for personality.

The stroke “resulted in some severe depression, as well as some changes in judgment that, in retrospect, probably didn’t appear for several months,” Knope said then.

At the time, Olson’s doctors said he had also been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythm, likely as a result of the stroke. Olson has for years dealt with a familiar tremor, which causes involuntary shaking and a trembling voice.

Olson has remained a Tucson mainstay in retirement, traveling around the country as an ambassador for the UA Foundation, lending his name to a fantasy camp involving his former players while also appearing in local advertising.

The McKale Center court is named for Olson and his first wife, Bobbi, and the UA last April unveiled a life-sized statue of the coach outside the Jim Click Hall of Champions on the north side of the arena.

“I think it’s a great tribute to the players who went through this program, because I didn’t make one basket,” Olson said before the ceremony.

Since retiring, Olson also has been a regular sight at UA home games along with his wife, Kelly, until this season.

He was honored at a UA women’s game in December and attended his first men’s game this season on Feb. 7, sitting in Tucson attorney Burt Kinerk’s seats across from the UA bench while the Wildcats hosted first-place Washington.

A statement from the UA’s athletic department Monday read: “Coach Olson is not only an icon of our men’s basketball program and all of college basketball, but he is also an embodiment of greatness to Arizona Athletics, the University of Arizona and the Tucson community. Our thoughts are with Coach Olson, his family and loved ones during this time.”

Subscribe to stay connected to Tucson. A subscription helps you access more of the local stories that keep you connected to the community.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News