Hall of Fame Coach: Lute Olson, Part I

Before Lute Olson turned six-years-old, he had already suffered the losses of his father and oldest brother. Before the Hall of Fame coach knew how to read he knew what tragedy was. However, thanks to a strong Scandinavian community's support and the love from his family, Lute Olson made sure tragedy would not be the end of him as well.

There's an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." While the Olsons didn't exactly live in a village, the saying held true because of the tremendous support system offered by the Maryville, North Dakota community.

Olson's parents were second generation Americans, the children of Norwegian immigrants, and they taught their own kids the value of hard work and honesty. After Lute's father died of a massive stroke when Lute was only five, the family was forced to sell the farm and move out of town. The Olsons were very poor but, because of the new community's willingness to take them in and help in whatever ways they could, the depression that is associated with poverty was never felt.

Lute, known as "Luke" for much of his early life in North Dakota, grew into a tall and athletic three-sport star by the time he got to high school in Grand Forks. In fact, Olson led his high school basketball team to the 1952 state championship.

Over the next few years, Olson went on to become a three-sport star again, this time at Augsburg (Minn.) College, where he lettered in basketball, football and baseball. It was also during this time that Lute Olson met Roberta "Bobbi" Russell, whom he would later marry.

After college, Lute accepted a head coaching job at Two Harbors High School in Minnesota where he remained for five years. Shortly thereafter, Olson (who, along with Bobbi, had started a family that would eventually include five children and 14 grandchildren) picked up and moved the family cross country to southern California. Olson coached at Anaheim Loara High School and then moved on to Huntington Beach Marina High.

In all, Olson coached for 11 years at the high school level, amassing an impressive 180-76 record (.703) that was only a precursor for what lie ahead in his career as a basketball coach.

{Part II will detail the next phase of Olson's life, a Junior College stop and his first Division I job, where Olson was wildly successful}.

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