IOWA Magazine | 09-02-2019

College Basketball Hall of Fame Gives a Salute to Lute

1 minute read
Lute Olson, who led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four and helped open Carver-Hawkeye Arena, will be celebrated by the college basketball world this fall.
Team Photo of the 1979-80 Iowa Basketball Team PHOTO: SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES, UI LIBRARIES Lute Olson (front row, fourth from left) and his 1979-80 Hawkeye Final Four team

He led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four, helped open Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and lured Hawkeye greats like Ronnie Lester (81BGS) and Bobby Hansen (83BBA) to Iowa City.

Lute Olson built a Big Ten power at Iowa in the late '70s and early '80s before departing for Arizona, where he reached even greater heights. In 24 seasons with the Wildcats, Olson earned four more trips to the Final Four and won the 1997 national title. Olson retired from coaching in 2008 with a 780-280 career record and 28 NCAA Tournament appearances—including 168 wins and five NCAA berths at Iowa.

Now 84, the silver-haired coaching legend will be the toast of the basketball world once again this fall. Olson will be inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in November in Kansas City alongside fellow coaching greats Rick Majerus and Homer Drew. Olson was one of the 180 people enshrined in the hall's founding class in 2006, but the organization plans to formally re-induct him this year.

Olson's impact still looms large a decade since his retirement. The Lute Olson Award is presented annually to the nation's top Division I player, and a life-sized bronze statue of Olson was erected in 2018 outside of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center. He's made several trips back to Iowa City in recent years, including a 2016 reunion with Lester at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, still known to many as "The House That Lute Built." Olson, who lives in Tucson, was inducted into the UI Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000.

Watch former Iowa men's basketball coach Lute Olson reunite with Hawkeye star Ronnie Lester (81BGS) in this video from 2016.
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