Schu Strings: Lute's bid is not clear cut

In the eyes of Wildcat fans, it's a no-brainer. Lute Olson belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame. But further inspection suggests the lofty distinction might not be a foregone conclusion after all.

Most of us know the gist of the resume by now. In 29 years as a Division I head coach, Olson is 663-235. He has won at every stop, but his most noteworthy achievement occurred, and continues to occur, in Tucson, where he has guided the Wildcats to one national championship, four Final Fours and nine Pac-10 titles. Under Olson, Arizona is one of the top five Division I basketball programs going today.

Obviously, those are fabulous credentials, and in the eyes of Wildcat fans Olson's Hall of Fame ticket should already have been punched. But Hall of Fame is the place for the Best There Is, the Best There Was, the Best There Ever Will Be. So the competition is quite stiff indeed.

Take a look at just this year's nominees: Larry Brown: For decades, the game's most nomadic coach, but he won everywhere. He won in the college game, he won in the ABA, he won, and still wins, in the NBA. With over 1,000 professional victories under his belt, Brown is the only coach to take six different teams to the NBA Playoffs. How is he not in the Hall?

Lefty Driesell: A record of 782-387 over the course of a career that has spanned 40 years. Successful stints with Davidson, James Madison, Maryland and Georgia State. He's the third-winningest active coach in the game today. How is he not in the Hall?

Bill Sharman: Already inducted as a player, Sharman is the only coach in history to win a championship and be named Coach of the Year in three different leagues - with the ABL's Cleveland Pipers (1962), the ABA's Los Angeles Stars (1970, co-Coach of the Year) and Utah Stars (1971, ABA champions) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1972). Sharman is the guy who guided the Lakers to that 69-13 mark, including the 33-game winning streak that still stands. Probably the least worthy on this year's list, but still strong numbers.

Eddie Sutton: Possibly the game's most underrated Division I coach. All he does is win. He has just one losing season in 32 as a head coach, and is one of just three Division I coaches to take four teams to the NCAA Tournament, and he was the first to do so. Sutton has won conference championships in the SEC, SWC and Big Eight. How is he not in the Hall?

In my view, Olson, Brown, Driesell and Sutton all belong. That's how impressive the current crop of nominees is. But this is the induction into the place that recognizes the accomplishments of the Greatest of the Great. This is where Wooden is, where Iba is, Rupp, Auerbach, Newell.

It's an elite class indeed. Well, at least it should be. Olson's numbers are better than Lou Carnesecca, who was 526-200 as a Division I coach. John Chaney, inducted last year, is 636-258. A similar overall record to Olson, but Olson has had much greater success in the NCAA tournament.

In basketball circles, the Hall of Fame is probably a coach's most difficult challenge only because it's out of his or her control. Outside of those who vote, and perhaps the Illuminati, who might be one and the same, nobody knows who casts the ballots, and what their motivations might be (read: Jerry Tarkanian). But perhaps we've been provided with a tip-off. After all, along with Magic Johnson, Olson's photo is prominently displayed on the Hall of Fame homepage at

Does Olson belong? I believe so, but it's not as clear-cut as we might think.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories