I have been following College Insider for well over a decade now and one of the things I thoroughly enjoyed is the many columns, authored by coaches. For the most part my contributions have been more on the lighter side of the court, but with the recent announcement of the creation of the Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award, I thought I would write about a coach who has always taken time to write about others.
Lute has written about legendary coaches like Al McGuire and Ralph Miller. He expressed the sentiments of all of us with his column, nearly a decade ago, on the aftermath of September 11th. Lute has always done a nice job of capturing the moment. Every feature he has ever written for CollegeInsider.com has been just like the man himself -- first class!
Like so many in this business, I have always admired him from afar. His teams were always fun to watch. They played at a fast pace, but they played with so much discipline.
I don't think fans can appreciate just how difficult that is to do.
In today's game, players are so conscience of their own game and often express their thoughts to the coach -- "coach you're messing with my game."
That is an all-too-familiar phrase to coaches.
Coach Olson always found a perfect balance, bringing out the talents of the individual for the better of the team. From the first day he arrived in Tucson he had terrific guards and he was always able to get them to play in his system, while not taking away from their abilities. Back when he was at Iowa, it was the same situation but it was talented big men that he was able to cultivate into his system.
Trust me, that’s not an easy thing to do.
What Coach Olson did on the floor speaks for itself, but it's away from game where he really shines.
Everyone has heard the expression, "in life, not everyone is going to like you." Well, I don't think that applies to Lute. He personifies class and dignity. The guy is about as good as it gets as a human being.
From time to time I will hear one of my piers make a derogatory remark about another coach. That's just the way it is. But I have never heard anyone say anything but the best about Coach Olson. Should you ever hear someone say something less than pleasant about Lute, consider the source and give strong consideration to telling them to shut the hell up!
Better yet, you may want to opt for a different term than "hell." There lies another one of Lute's great traits.
In today's game, the use of four-letter descriptives is unfortunately all too common place. When Lute was coaching you could take your children to an Arizona game or practice session without a concern for inappropriate language.
The man was always so cool, calm and collected on the sidelines. That blue blazer never had crease and not a single blade of hair ever moves. I always kid Coach John Calipari that his hair always looks so neat because of all that junk he pours on his scalp, but Lute keeps his smooth look with his great demeanor.
Coach Olson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame because of his numerous basketball accomplishments, but had he never won a single game he would have deserved enshrinement.
Like every guy in this business I have a basketball mentor. Coach Cal is my mentor, but so is Coach Olson.
Lute Olson is everybody's mentor.