Q&A with Lute Olson

Hall of Fame former Wildcat head coach Lute Olson talks to Inna Lazarev about the Memphis and Texas games, as well as the Wildcats' upcoming matchup with Duke.

With Arizona's Sweet 16 game quickly approaching, we caught up with Lute Olson, who shared his thoughts on the Wildcats' NCAA tournament performance so far, UA's history with Duke, and Arizona's upcoming game on Thursday, which Olson will be in attendance for.

WildcatAuthority.com: Two very close games last week. What are your impressions of Arizona's performance in the tournament so far?

Lute Olson: Well I think they played very well. They've gotten leads and given up the leads, and I think playing against a team like Duke, you can't do that. You have to be on your ‘A' game all the time.

WildcatAuthority.com: You have a close relationship with Josh Pastner. Was it hard for you to watch the matchup between Arizona and Memphis?

Lute Olson: It really wasn't. I sent a text to Josh that said, "Good luck in the game, but not too much" (laughs). And you know, he understood that we'd be pulling for Arizona, but I really thought Memphis played very well.

WildcatAuthority.com: Have you been able to talk with him since that game?

Lute Olson: Oh yeah, we talked a couple hours after the game.

WildcatAuthority.com: What did he say?

Lute Olson: He said they had their chances and couldn't finish it out like he would have liked, but he felt that his guys had played well.

WildcatAuthority.com: What did you think about the Texas game, particularly the ending?

Lute Olson: When it was around 11 seconds left and Texas had the ball out of bounds, I thought, "Uh oh this is trouble." I thought for sure that Texas would get the ball to J'Covan Brown and he had hit something like 11 or so free throws in a row, and I thought with a two-point lead, that's going to mean four, and that would have been the ball game; so great job of pressuring the attempted in-bounds pass.

I thought the thing that was lost in the coverage as far as the last play was that Kyle Fogg made an unbelievable pass to Derrick Williams on that pick and roll. I think Kyle was probably expected to shoot that shot, but he found Derrick and that led to the three-point play.

Derrick is very, very difficult for anyone to try to stop one-on-one, and I think that'll be a key factor in the game against Duke. And I'm sure that Duke will collapse all over him when he gets the ball, like they've done, but Derrick is also Arizona's top three-point shooter.

It'll be interesting to see because I think Duke's pressure on the ball on the perimeter - I don't know that Arizona has been pressured like Duke pressures you - but on the other hand, if Duke tries to cover Derrick one-on-one, I don't think they can do it.

WildcatAuthority.com: Two weeks ago you told me that a successful season for the Wildcats would be getting to the Sweet 16. They've made it to the Sweet 16. Do you think they can surpass it?

Lute Olson: They've got the opportunity to do it now. They had a pretty tough road to get to the Sweet 16, so who knows now? When I look back on the ‘97 team, it was all a matter of getting the momentum at the end of the season. That team beat three number one seeds to win the thing. I don't think it's impossible for Arizona to keep going.

WildcatAuthority.com: The last time that Arizona and Duke met was in the 2001 championship game. A lot of Arizona fans are under the impression that the officials helped determine that game in Duke's favor. Would you agree with that?

Lute Olson: You know, I thought the biggest thing in that game was Gilbert Arenas had a separated clavicle that he suffered against Michigan State in the semifinal game, and Luke Walton was playing with a broken right thumb. I think the injuries had more to do with it than the officiating.

WildcatAuthority.com: If you were to tell the team one thing before Thursday's game, what would you say?

Lute Olson: I would just tell them to go out, play hard, and have fun.

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