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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Sunday / July 14.
  • Olson Steps Down to Spend Time With Family

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    An era at Arizona ended Thursday when Lute Olson announced he will step down as head coach of the basketball team

    “This was not a decision that was made lightly,” Olson said. “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.”

    “At this stage in my life, I want to devote my time to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family and friends. I look forward 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.”

    “To my family, all of the players who have put on our uniform, our fans in Tucson and all of the great supporters of this basketball program, I offer my heartfelt thanks for your support, and I look forward to reconnecting with each of you,” Olson said. “The University of Arizona will always be a basketball school. It will continue to flourish.”

    Associate head coach Mike Dunlap will take over on an interim basis and Arizona will conduct a national search for Olson’s replacement immediately. Olson did not coach last year, citing personal reasons.

    Arizona President Robert N. Shelton said, “Lute Olson transformed the UA and Tucson into premier basketball country. Arizona now stands in the company of great college basketball programs, and we have Lute to thank for that. We will sorely miss his brilliance as our head coach, but we will benefit from the legacy he leaves for decades to come.”

    ESPN.com reported that the fathers of two Arizona recruits told the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen that they had been informed that Olson was stepping down by Dunlap and fellow Arizona assistant Reggie Geary. Abdul Gaddy, Sr., father of point guard Abdul Gaddy, and Solomon Crawford, father of forward Solomon Hill, said they had been told the news.

    Among active coaches, Olson, 74, trails only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (803) on the list of Division I victories. Olson has won 780 games, followed by UConn’s Jim Calhoun (774) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (771).

    Only Bobby Knight (28) has been to more NCAA tournaments than Olson, who is tied for second with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith at 27.

    A 2002 Hall of Fame inductee, Olson won the 1997 NCAA championship with Arizona and has been to four Final Fours. He has a 780-280 career mark in 34 seasons and ranks 8th all-time in wins.

    He recently announced his engagement to Kelly Pugnea, 47, who has lived in Tucson 25 years.

    “She’s a fantastic lady,” Olson told the Citizen. “Everyone who meets her finds her very, very special.”

    Olson reached a divorce settlement in late May with Christine Toretti after five years of marriage. He was married to the late Bobbi Olson for 47 years before she passed away from Ovarian cancer.

    Kevin O’Neill coached Arizona last season when Olson was away from the team, leading the Wildcats to a 19-15 record their 24th straight NCAA tournament berth. At one point, it was reported that O’Neill would eventually take over the team when Olson retired.

    But Olson announced his return in April and said O’Neill would not join him. O’Neill ultimately took a job with the Memphis Grizzlies.

    “I apologize for what they [the players] had to go through this year in terms of the change,” Olson said in April. “They came here to play a wide-open game, and they didn’t. That’s no one’s fault, because that’s not coach O’Neill’s belief on the offensive end. It was his team once I left. But I said we’re going to play Arizona basketball and we’re going to have fun doing it.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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