Lute out, Ros in

For many years Lute Olson has been one of the most dynamic figures during the July summer camp circuit. But for the next couple of weeks Olson will step aside and let his top assistant, Associate Head Coach Jim Rosborough, take over the reins of directing the Wildcats' recruiting efforts. Olson leaves today for a European vacation. How will this effect the Wildcats' recruiting effort?

Since NCAA rules allow three coaches from the basketball department to be on the road at any one time during the evaluation period, Rosborough will go on the road and step into Olson's position as head recruiter. His first stop, The Peach Jam in Augusta Ga., an event that started yesterday and opens to coaches tomorrow.

Rosborough can do the job, I have no doubt about that. Over the last several years Rosborough has been the man behind the scenes, handling most of the administrative duties and directing Olson's summer camps. He's also done some scouting, developed game strategy and contributed as a sideline coach during games.

Rosborough was an assistant to Olson at Iowa, then was the head coach at Northern Illinois for three years before rejoining Olson as an assistant at Arizona in April of 1989. He's been with Olson 23 years in all. So there is no doubt Rosborough knows what Olson is looking for in a player and he has the experience to evaluate talent.

Rosborough also has some head coaching experience at Arizona. He stepped in and led the Wildcats when Olson took a leave of absence during Bobbi's final days as she fought a losing battle with cancer. He didn't have the best record during that time, losing to Mississippi State in the Fiesta Classic, Arizona's only defeat in the 20-year history of the event. The Wildcats were 3-3 overall during Rosborough's tenure. The Wildcats lost to UConn in Storrs, Conn. and to Stanford at McKale Center. Rosborough went on to lead the team to a 3-1 Pac-10 record in Olson's absence, including a road sweep of the Washington schools and the Cats eventually finished as the NCAA runner-up. His knowledge of the system is unquestionable.

However I can't remember the last time I saw Rosborough at the July summer camps. Over the last few years, it's been Rodney Tention and Jay John on the circuit. When John got the head job Oregon State, Josh Pastner stepped into John's position. Before that, it was Phil Johnson and prior to Johnson it was Jessie Evans.

Rosborough has been there recruiting before, so I believe he can do a more-than-adequate job of evaluating talent. But can he really take the place of an icon? Rosborough's entrance and Olson's exit from the recruiting circuit will certainly stimulate some controversy, or at the very least it'll open the door for a couple of questions:

Will the players being recruited notice that Olson is no longer on the sidelines and will other head coaches use this to their advantage?
It's common knowledge that coaches go to these events to be seen. When a player sees Lute (or any other elite-level coach) sitting sideline at his games, he knows he's receiving the ultimate compliment. In past years, Olson has been a dominating presence in the bleachers at every stop along the recruiting trail. No other coach has "outworked" Olson and it's been this work ethic through the years as much as his keen eye for talent that has elevated the Arizona program to elite status. Rosborough might have the eye for talent, but his reputation as a hard working recruiter still needs to be established.

In the battle for a recruit, opposing head coaches have often used Olson's age as a negative recruiting tool. "How long will Lute be there," they ask? "Will he be there during the entire time you play your college ball?" That leads us to our second question:

Has the replacement process begun? Is Rosborough's foray onto the recruiting scene a precursor of things to come? Is he being groomed to take over as the head coach when Olson leaves, whether it be in the near future or when his contract expires in two years?
I've never known Olson to take a vacation in the middle of July, but that doesn't mean he hasn't earned it. It's simply just not his style. In all the years I've known him, Olson is the one coach who seems to really enjoy the evaluation and recruiting process. As I've followed him from camp to camp over the past 12 years, he seems to thrive in this environment.

Has that changed?

When I saw him at the Nike Camp last week he didn't seem to be as excited as he's been in the past. Am I reading too much into his absence, or is there something in the works?

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