Legendary college basketball coach, Mayville native Lute Olson passes away

August 28, 2020 9:00 am

By Tom Mix
NDHSAA Media Specialist

TUCSON, Ariz. – Hall of Fame basketball coach and Mayville, N.D. native Lute Olson passed away Thursday, August 27 at the age of 85.

Olson most notably coached at the University of Arizona for 25 years (1983-2008) guiding the Wildcats to a NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship in 1997.

Olson attended Mayville High School his freshman, sophomore and junior years and would graduate from Grand Forks Central in 1952. While at Central, Olson played basketball and helped Central win the 1952 NDHSAA Class A basketball championship defeating Williston 43-38 in the title game with Olson scoring 16 points. Earlier in the 1952 state tournament Central had defeated St. Leo’s High School of Minot 52-44 in the quarterfinals. No one knew it at the time, but two players on the court that day Olson (Central) and Dale Brown (St. Leo’s) would become Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inductees as coaches with Brown coaching at Louisiana State University (LSU).

Olson owned a 780-280 (.736 winning percentage) in his collegiate basketball coaching career that also included stops at Long Beach State and Iowa. He was 589-187 (.759 winning percentage) at Arizona.

Prior to his collegiate basketball career, Olson graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. and coached high school basketball in Mahnomen, Minn. and Two Harbors, Minn.

Once he entered the collegiate basketball coaching profession, Olson flourished.

After four seasons of coaching at Long Beach City College, Olson took a job at Long Beach State University and after just one season at the school he was offered the job at Iowa.

Olson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1979, 1981 and guided the Hawkeyes to the 1980 NCAA Final Four.

At Arizona, Olson was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year seven times (1986, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2003). He guided the Wildcats to four NCAA Final Four appearances in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2001.

Olson is tied for most NCAA tournament appearances with 28 and is fourth in NCAA tournament wins with 46 – one behind legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and one in front of legendary coach Bobby Knight. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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