The central figure in Arizona basketball history will be immortalized further on the Tucson campus come 2018. The university plans to unveil a Lute Olson statue next year, Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke said on Tuesday.
Construction on the monument, which will cost $300,000, is set for completion in March. The statue’s unveiling will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1987-88 basketball team, the first Wildcats group to advance to the Final Four. Olson helped Arizona to three more during his tenure, one that obviously peaked with the 1996-97 team’s national championship.
“This is a wonderful honor and I’m grateful to the people at Arizona who made the decision to put up a statue,” Olson said. “I was fortunate to have a successful career that spanned a number of different locations, but Tucson and the University of Arizona have become my home. I’m deeply touched at this recognition and I want to thank all of the staff members, student-athletes and fans, who made, and continue to make, my life at Arizona something special.”
Olson, 82, coached at Long Beach State and Iowa before taking the Arizona reins in 1983. Olson coached the Wildcats for 24 seasons, and 23 of those ended in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona went 589-187 during Olson’s run. The Wildcats won 11 Pac-10 regular-season titles in that span, and Olson earned the conference’s Coach of the Year honor seven times.
“We’re thrilled to recognize coach Olson, not just for what he accomplished on the basketball court, but for what he means to Arizona and our community,” Heeke said. “Through the success of Arizona basketball, Lute helped introduce people around the country to our university and this city, and he forever changed the trajectory and perception of our athletics department. His legendary status is worthy of this honor, and we’re proud that his statue will be visible to the thousands of people that visit McKale (Center) on a yearly basis.”
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played on the 1987-88 team, is helping fund the statue by partnering with Original Retro Brand to sell Arizona Kerr jersey replicas and T-shirts — all of those funds going to the statue project. Original Retro Brand CEO Marc Herman will match the Kerr fund’s donation.