Olson hinting the end is not near

There was a lot of attention paid to some comments by Lute Olson a few weeks back. At a press conference, Olson openly pondered if the Wildcats should change their scheduling philosophy to boost their overall record while letting their RPI suffer. This was big news, but maybe not for the right reason. While many saw this as a shot at the NCAA selection committee and even some conference foes, they may have missed the biggest message Olson was relaying.

"There is a real question in my mind, in fact, as to whether a team should play the tough schedules," Olson speculated. "If you take a look within our league where Washington and ourselves split, we went a game deeper in the league tournament. Maybe it is best to play 10 of your first 11 at home. They say they are not going to be influenced by a team's record. But I'm not ready to buy that."

While Olson was obviously talking about schedules and whether it was more important to schedule tough and improve or schedule weaker and pad the win loss total, he was also quietly serving notice. He was essentially saying, "I'm not going anywhere anytime soon".

For Olson to openly ponder scheduling speaks volumes about where his head is at in terms of staying as the head coach of Arizona. Next year's schedule is all but done and the 2007-08 schedule is pretty close. If Olson is indeed thinking about changing his scheduling philosophy, then he may very well be planning on coaching for awhile.

This isn't the only evidence of late that the Lute Olson era is going to last longer than many around the nation thought or hoped.

The biggest evidence, bigger than the scheduling comments, is the fact that he is signing an extension to coach the team through the 2011 season. While there is no guarantee that he will coach the duration of the contract, it at least shows where his mindset is at.

Right no he wants to coach.

Olson has long maintained that he would coach as long as he was healthy and enjoyed what he did. The fact that he is signing the extension shows that he is feeling good and even the trying season was not too difficult on him.

Olson has also been more active in recruiting the past few seasons. After the 2003 season Olson was out of the country when Marvin Williams visited and did not attend the Las Vegas tournament at the end of the summer.

All that has changed. Olson was relentless in his pursuit of Chase Budinger. Nic Wise was wrapped up early on but Olson had to work his magic on Budinger and Jordan Hill.

Even more impressive is the players that have already been acquired for 2007. Three recruits are already verbally committed, including all-everything Jerryd Bayless. Would a Parade All-American like Bayless commit this early if he didn't feel that Olson wasn't going to be around for a little while?

The Cats have already extended offers to 2009 players, no big deal, even a coach that was pondering retirement in few years would do that, but Olson has been on the road to see young players and evaluate their abilities. Olson likes to be on players early, as he was with Budinger, and that has not changed as he has gotten earlier.

Those around Olson praise his health and vigor. Olson still takes a long, challenging walk every day and then hits the gym. He may be in his 70's but does not need glasses and apparently takes few medications.

Olson has been battling the age thing for nearly 20 years. Every year coaches in the Pac-10 tell recruits that Olson's retirement is imminent. Since Olson took over in Tucson there have been over 40 other coaches in the league. They are gone, but Olson is still roaming the sidelines.

Eventually the Lute Olson era will end at Arizona. Truth be told, we are closer to the end than we are the beginning or even the middle. It would be a shocker to see Olson coaching at 80, but 75 seems to be a very real possibility. So does somewhere between the two.

The end is coming, but Olson's words and actions hint that it could be some ways away.


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