Arizona Coach Lute Olsen Retires Unexpectedly

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Lute Olson has retired after 24 seasons
with the Arizona Wildcats.
Athletic director Jim Livengood confirmed Olson's decision hours
after news reports had started speculating about the 74-year-old
Hall of Famer's future.
"This was not a decision that was made lightly," Olson said in
a statement released by the university on Thursday. "I've had a
wonderful run at the University of Arizona. I leave with a great
sense of pride in what we have accomplished here."
Speaking at a brief news conference at McKale Center, Livengood
did not designate a successor - even on an interim basis. He said a
national search would begin soon.
"I do not have a decision at this point in time in terms of
who's going to head our men's basketball program," Livengood said.
"But that will be announced in the very, very short future."
ESPN's Dick Vitale first reported the story, saying Olson would
be replaced by assistant coach Mike Dunlap, a former Denver Nuggets
assistant and Metro State coach who joined the program in May.
Dunlap ran practice on Thursday afternoon and declined to comment.
Olson missed the 2007-08 season after taking a personal leave of
absence for what he later termed "a medical condition that was not
life-threatening."
Interim coach Kevin O'Neill led Arizona to a 19-15 record and
the school's 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the
nation's longest active streak.
When Olson returned from his leave in April, he said O'Neill was
no longer part of his staff and that he planned to coach for the
remainder of his contract, which runs through 2011.
On Tuesday, Olson said that he was fired up about the upcoming
season. "I feel much more energized at this point," he said at
the team's media day.
That feeling apparently changed quickly. Olson skipped a
scheduled luncheon on Wednesday and missed practice the last two
days.
Olson did not appear at the news conference announcing his
decision, nor was there any mention of his health in the statement
released by the school.
The announcement comes after a year of upheaval for Olson, whose
contentious divorce from wife Christine was finalized last spring.
Five months later, Olson announced that he was engaged to Kelly
Pugnea, 47, a Tucson resident for 25 years.
Last month, the university reported a possible minor NCAA
recruiting violation by Olson, who called it "an unfortunate and
regrettable error."
"At this stage in my life, I want to devote my time to my
children, great-grandchildren, family and friends," Olson said in
the statement. "I look foward to watching Wildcat basketball and
visiting with my colleagues in the coaching profession. It is time
to pass the program on to a younger staff, to transition the
university to the next generation of basketball."
Olson went 589-187 in 24 seasons at Arizona, and he led the
Wildcats to the 1997 national title and four Final Fours, most
recently in 2001. His 327 Pac-10 wins are a conference record.
Olson is 780-280 overall in 34 seasons as a Division I coach.
As rumors of Olson's retirement spread, television news trucks
lined the street outside McKale Center. Reporters camped out inside
the building for hours as Livengood and other school officials
huddled in the athletic department offices, refusing to confirm or
deny widespread reports that Olson had quit.
"This has been a long day for everybody," Livengood said.
"Things were released, unfortunately, non-confirmed, a long time
ago, and it seems like it's been hours and hours and hours."
Olson's players were among the last to learn of his decision.
Several asked reporters what they had heard.
"We don't know a damn thing," forward Jordan Hill said as he
waited for Thursday afternoon's workout to begin.


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