Everyone knows that Jay Bilas ended up playing and coaching under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, but back in Tucson for ESPN’s College GameDay, Bilas recounted how he almost played for a Tucson legend...before he was in Tucson.
“Coach Olson recruited me to Iowa,” Bilas reminisced about the early 1980s. “I graduated high school in 1982, so when he started recruiting me, I loved him, and still do. He’s not only one of the great coaches but great gentleman I’ve ever met.”
That Lute Olson charm had a profound impact on Bilas’ mom apparently.
“My mom was going to Iowa, it didn’t matter where I went,” Jay joked. “She loved him. That was a done deal as soon as he walked in the door. She thought he was Paul Newman.”
“I visited Iowa and had a great time,” Bilas continued. “I grew up in Los Angeles, so it was a little chillier than I liked or that I was used to, but I had a great time there.”
“That’s the hard thing about recruiting, is you can only play for one coach. So I’m not disappointed in the choice I made; Coach K was a great choice, but it was hard to say no to Coach Olson.”
“When he spoke, I was riveted to him. He was one of those coaches you trusted right out of the gate.”
Coming out of high school, Bilas had some of the game’s legends pursuing him. Not only were Coach K and Olson among the two finalists, but so were a couple other names you might recognize.
“When I was recruited, I was really looking at coaches I wanted to play for rather than schools I wanted to go to....maybe I did it kind of backwards,” Bilas added. “That’s really the only time in your basketball life that you get to choose who you play for, and the four guys that I came down to were Coach K, Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim, and Ted Owens at Kansas. So I had a lineup of unbelievable coaches.”
“They may not have been good talent evaluators for recruiting me, but they’re the best.”
Maybe if Olson had been at Arizona at the time, Bilas ends up playing for the Wildcats because of the weather factor. It was just two years later that he moved from Iowa City to Tucson. We’ll never know, but the two will be in Tucson together again this weekend with GameDay in town and Lute likely to be in attendance.