October 29, 2008
Lute Olson's retirement -- and, really, all of Lute's news before that -- has been some of the most confusing behavior in college basketball. Consider all of these things: Olson's public divorce from his wife; his absence from last year's Arizona team; his behind-the-back criticism of interim coach Kevin O'Neill; his sudden preseason engagement; his loose recruiting lips; his talk about energy level; and then his sudden and unexplained resignation from Arizona. What could possibly explain all of this?
Turns out, the explanation is not as far-fetched, or weird, or as diabolical as one might imagine: Lute Olson had a stroke last year, which affected certain parts of his brain and changed his personality. He is apparently suffering through depression as a result.
The doctor said he had talked to Olson for several weeks about retiring because the stress was too much for the coach and Olson was not responding to anti-depression medicine. "He just couldn't put the pieces together," Knope said.
Olson, the doctor added, "knew something was wrong, but couldn't quite put his finger on it. Given his personality, here's a guy who was frustrated, but he refused to give up."
Chas Rich at FanHouse says Olson's behavior made no sense because: "All of this from a coach that had done everything right for so long, and had managed to keep much of his personal life just that. Everything seemed to invert." Truth. One doesn't spend 30 years of his life beyond reproach, only to start suddenly acting like a clown, without some sort of underlying explanation. Olson's, unfortunately, is his health.
Here's hoping retirement is what Lute needs to feel better. It's a sad ending, but not one that overshadows the brilliance that came before it.