Twenty years from now Arizona fans will look back on the glory days under Lute Olson in a way once reserved for all of those fond memories of Christmases gone by. That's the kind of nostalgia the Olson era will bring out of the hundreds of thousands of Wildcat fans around the globe.
Whenever Olson finally relinquishes the reins of his Desert Dynasty (and we all hope that it's not until AT LEAST the first colony has been settled on Mars) it will be a sad, sad day in Tucson, because, after all, Lute Olson IS Tucson. Come to think of it, he might be Arizona as well, but surely he is Tucson.
Not having Lute Olson around would be like Boston without Ted Williams, New York City without the Mafia or a Frat House without the kegs. What might be even more appropriate would be to say that not having Lute Olson around Tucson would be like Springfield, Massachusetts without the Basketball Hall of Fame. A place where Olson will reside in perpetuity from now until that Mars Colony gets bored and moves on to Neptune and beyond.
Lute Olson's admission into the Hall of Fame means that he has earned the greatest honor anyone can possibly earn. He is eternally enshrined with guys like Wooden, Wilt, West and…John Chaney? Okay, maybe one of those guys doesn't belong in the same breath as the rest, but who cares at this point, right? At least the voters finally proved that they were watching Olson's West Coast brand of championship basketball.
The career highlights, records and other accomplishments are all secondary to his election into the Hall now. No longer is it necessary to make a case for Olson's inclusion, arguing against borderline residents like Chaney and the rest, all that matters is that he is now in.
"You come here to play for and get coached by Lute Olson," Arizona center Channing Frye said during this past season. "I don't know how he does it. Like this year, everyone left and look, we're still good. He's really smart with recruiting players and he always has you ready to play."
That might be what Olson's enduring legacy is; getting the most out of the teams no one thought would do anything. Rebuilding years? They don't exist at Arizona because Lute Olson doesn't allow them to.
"Coach Olson sold me on coming here," Wildcat All-American Luke Walton said during this past Pac-10 season. "I came in here on my visit with Rich (former UA star Richard Jefferson) and Ricky (Anderson) and by the time we left, we all knew we wanted to play for Coach O.
"No one expected us to be any good this year but I did. I knew we'd be good and I knew he'd do a good job getting the freshmen ready. You'd think everyone else in the country would have thought the same too because of his record but I guess not."
Ah, yes, the critics. Olson, like every successful man in this nation, certainly has his share. The ones that point to the string of first round NCAA Tournament losses in the early 90's while simultaneously overlooking the four Final Fours and the 1997 National Championship while at Arizona. Put it this way, if Lute Olson coached for Clemson with all the accompanying east coast hype, he'd have been in the Hall of Fame almost a decade ago.
With his Wildcat team favored to win the 2003 national championship, Olson has a very good chance to prove once and for all that he is worthy of this honor. In fact, with the recent recruiting classes that he has brought in, it's not unrealistic to say that Olson will challenge for national titles from now until that sad day when he rides off into the sunset. We're talking serious potential dynasty here, folks.
But that's skipping too far ahead. For now, the only important thing is that Olson is a member of the Hall of Fame and that is something no one can ever take away from him.
The man was already a Living Legend, where does he go from here?
The unfortunate aspect of this situation is that his wife Bobbi won't be in Los Angeles this week to share the celebration with him. Maybe that's an understatement, actually. Not having enough money to buy new deodorant before a first date is unfortunate, not having your wife and best friend around for something like this is a first class Greek tragedy.
So what's left are the fans. His fans and Arizona's fans. It may be next to impossible to show the kind of gratitude and appreciation for Olson's life work that he deserves, but by all means you can bet we'll all try won't we?
Twenty years from now you will remember this day, the day Lute Olson became a Hall of Famer. And twenty years from now you'll look back and think, "My god, those were the days."
Lute Olson, Class of 2002.