While many of the events I attended myself there are some that will never be surpassed. Olson is the man, in every way you look at it.
With 20 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, 5 Final Four appearances, 3 preseason NIT titles, (currently tied for the record, and a chance to set the record this season) and a national championship, Olson is clearly one of the very best coaches in the history of the game.
Aside from Olson's impressive resume, his ability to take recruits who received little attention and turn them into NBA caliber players is what makes him so great.
Steve Kerr was a player that was hardly recruited when he came to Arizona. Kerr had a spectacular NBA career including all-star games and many championship rings. Kerr now is part owner of the Phoenix Suns.
Gilbert Arenas is another player who was not heavily recruited. He helped lead Arizona to a Final Four in 2001 before leaving for the NBA. Since his departure Arenas has been one of the best players in the NBA, appearing in two "freshman vs. sophomore" all star games.
In addition to Arenas, Luke Walton was another player not heavily recruited. Olson picked up the son of the NBA great and Walton became a leader of the team. Playing in the 2001 Final Four, Walton was an excellent player at Arizona. Staying all four years in college, Walton led Arizona to victories over #2 Maryland and #5 Florida, in back-to-back nights to begin the 2001-2002 campaign, as well an Elite Eight performance in 2003.
Olson has also turned many players into NBA talent over the course of a few years. Arizona has potentially the best set of NBA players compared to any other school in the country.
Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby, Jud Bucheler, Ben Davis, Michael Dickerson, Sean Elliott, Richard Jefferson, Steve Kerr, Chris Mills, Sean Rooks, Miles Simon, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, Luke Walton, Brian Williams, and Loren Woods are just some of the Olson-era Wildcats to play in the NBA. Olson clearly can see NBA talent and has not appeared to slow down.
Olson has forged many memories into my mind. Here MY top ten Arizona basketball moments under Olson. (Please keep in mind that I have only been alive as long as Olson has been at Arizona, so my list will be lean heavily towards the last few years and it will likely differ from yours.)
10. All the great buzzer beaters, the last being when Mustafa Shakur hits the three-pointer to defeat USC in the first round of Pac-10 tournament in 2004
9. 1994 Final Four
8. Arizona defeats #2 Maryland and #5 Florida in back-to-back nights to begin the 2001-2002 campaign. The wins gave Arizona the Coaches vs. Cancer classic title, less than a year following Bobbi Olson's tragic passing from ovarian cancer.
7. Khalid Reeves goes end to end with a buzzer-beating lay-up to defeat Stanford.
6. 1988 Final Four
5. 2001 Final Four
4. Miles Simon hits a 65-foot shot to defeat 5th ranked Cincinnati and give Olson his 500th career victory.
3. Arizona defeats Gonzaga in double overtime in the second round of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
2. Arizona's 1997 tournament run includes victories over #1 Kansas, an overtime win over Providence to get to the Final Four, a national semi-final win over North Carolina, and a national championship victory over Kentucky. Arizona becomes the first #4 seed to win the National Championship and the only team to defeat three #1 seeds in the same tournament. It is called the best run in tournament history.
1. Arizona wins the 1997 National Championship defeating Kentucky in overtime.
Olson has turned the University of Arizona into a dynasty. His 70th birthday shows his devotion to the school. Olson appears healthier than ever and has said he will continue coaching until he is unhealthy to or stops having fun. Let's hope that never happens.
Happy Birthday Coach Olson. You are the man.