Olson weighs in on U of M staff hires

When former Arizona coach Lute Olson told his wife Kelly about Luke Walton being hired by Josh Pastner as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis, there was truly only one appropriate way to react.

When former Arizona coach Lute Olson told his wife Kelly about Luke Walton being hired by Josh Pastner as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis, there was truly only one appropriate way to react.

"She said, ‘We've got to check and see when their first home game is,'" Olson, now 76, told TigerAuthority.com Monday night. "We just have to be there and watch and lend our support."

Walton, a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers the last eight seasons, played under both Olson and Pastner, then an assistant, at Arizona from 1999-2003. He was hired Monday to fill the last remaining spot on the U of M coaching staff, as the NBA is currently locked out, and will return to the Lakers as soon as NBA operations are resumed.

"I think he's meant to be a coach," said Olson, who coached at Arizona from 1983-2008. "He has the ability to do things that are just really instinctive. I'm sure it's in the genes from (his father) Bill."

Olson said Pastner, who walked on for him from 1997-1998 and served as an assistant from 2000-2008, broke the news about Walton's hiring in a text message Monday afternoon.

"I thought, ‘Boy, that's a great hire,'" Olson said. "Luke is going to be popular with recruits and fans. I think it's a great hire."

As an NBA player, Walton has won two NBA championships and carved a niche for himself as a combo forward who utilizes his basketball IQ and court vision, rather than sheer athleticism, to make plays. Walton's skill-set is unique in that, at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, he can sufficiently post up defenders while still posing a threat on the perimeter.

At Memphis, Walton's primary duties will be working out and developing the big men.

"Luke played (at Arizona) as a 4-man and a 3-man," Olson said. "He has unbelievable passing skills and I think he's going to be really helpful to a number of the players, particularly the guys who end up in the high post area.

"He has such a feel for the game and I think he's a great communicator and a great personality. Everyone will grow to love him in a hurry."

Olson also praised the hire of Damon Stoudamire, who led the Wildcats to a Final Four appearance in 1994.

"I think Damon will help a lot in terms of having dealt with pro players and recruits," Olson said. "The players that Josh has brought in, those are guys that have NBA on their mind. What better way for them than to have the guy that Damon was in the NBA?"

With the hiring of Walton, all members of the Tigers' coaching staff originate from Arizona. Pastner, Stoudamire, and Walton played under Olson.

"I couldn't be prouder than I am of those three guys," Olson said. "I feel great about it because I just feel strongly about all three of my former players. I'm happy to see them in the coaching area because I think they'll have a great effect on young kids."


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