Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson: Juco and Long Beach

After eleven years as a high school coach in Minnesota, Colorado and then at Loara and Marina High Schools in southern California, Lute Olson had an 180-76 record (.703). Compared to what would happen over the next four years, that winning percentage was nothing.

When Lute Olson ended his tenure at Huntington Beach Marina High School he was a hot commodity in that part of the country. He knew he didn't want to stay at the high school level forever and opportunity knocked in 1970 when he was offered the head coaching job at Long Beach City College.

"All I knew," Olson said. "Was that I never wanted to be an old (high school) coach. I didn't like having bells dictate what I had to do next. Things like bathroom cleanup and cleaning the cafeteria weren't what I had in mind so I told Bobbi that I wouldn't do it forever."

In Olson's first year at LBCC, he led his new team to the 1971 state junior college championship and was named the conference Coach of the Year. He won the award the next two years too as his team - led by current Wildcat Rick Anderson's father, Gary - won its second and third consecutive league titles.

Next thing he knew, Olson was getting courted by nearby Cal State-Long Beach (LBSU now). In his brief three-year stint as head coach at LBCC, Olson compiled a 104-20 record (.839), three league titles, three Coach of the Year awards and the '71 state championship. Basically, he accomplished everything he could have hoped for in those three years so he decided to try his hand at major college basketball (or Division I, anyway).

Though he only coached at Long Beach State for the 1973-74 season, Olson was once again wildly successful. He inherited a program that had put itself in the NCAA's dog house and wasn't eligible for postseason play that year. Still, he racked up a 24-2 record (.923) and that got the attention of a real player in college basketball: Iowa.

Before heading off to Iowa City, however, Olson had secured himself as one of the best coaches in California history. His mark of 128-22 (.853) remains the best four-year stretch of his entire career.

*{Part III focuses on Olson's tenure as Iowa's head coach, including taking the Hawkeyes to the 1980 Final Four)

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