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Richard Jefferson, Miles Simon discuss Lute Olson, his statue and legacy at Arizona

This was a fun conversation

Richard Jefferson and Miles Simon hosted the second annual installment of the CATSYS, an award show for University of Arizona student-athletes.

Before the show, the former UA basketball players talked about the new Lute Olson statue, what he meant to them as their coach, and lots of other things.

Here is the video (along with the transcription of their thoughts on Olson):

Richard Jefferson and Miles Simon talk about the new Lute Olson statue, hosting the CATSYS and much much more.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, April 16, 2018

What do you think about the statue?

Simon: Well deserved. It’s funny, when Greg Byrne called me to say I was getting my jersey retired, the only text that coach Olson sent me was “It’s about time,” and I would say the same thing. It’s about time and it’s more than well deserved obviously, he’s a legend in the coaching game and a great mentor and coach and friend. All of his players are former coaches, and I’ll just say it’s well deserved and it’s about time.

Jefferson: Yeah, there are a lot of people that have contributed to the success of this university, the notoriety for all sports, I would never just put it on men’s basketball. But in a national standpoint, he kinda put Tucson on the map.

He made kids from all over the country want to come to Tucson. He made the best athletes, future millionaires, want to come to Tucson, Arizona. It was easy for me, to be the kid from Phoenix, Arizona, but for guys like Simon who could have gone to UCLA, could have gone to USC, Brentwood campus, with all that history that they have there and all that success. For guys to turn those things down and come play at the university, it was him. No disrespect, I love Tucson. It’s like a second home, but it wasn’t Tucson, it wasn’t the campus, it was him.

He was the guy that mentored all of us, he was like our father and brother and grandfather, and so he recruited at such a high level that he really put Tucson on the national stage. Now when I watch Family Guy and I see them making fun of Tucson, it’s purely based off of their recognition of the men’s basketball team.

When he was recruiting you guys, what was his sales pitch to get you guys to come out to UofA?

Simon: For me it was like you had to earn everything. I know recruiting has changed a lot in the last 20 to 25 years, but he never guaranteed anybody a starting spot, you were going to have earn everything you got, but you were going to have that opportunity to earn it. For me that was one of the big selling points, that I was going to come in, work hard, and I was going to play with other really good players.

Jefferson: The competition every day in practice is something, you can talk about guys that have been successful in the NBA, but it really its the guys that got better here from year one to year four. It’s the guys that were, you know, mildly recruited, mid-major, nothing like high level, they weren't Kentucky blue bloods, but all of the sudden by their fourth year they were first team All-Americans.

Thats a testament to his ability to not only coach people but also challenge people. Like with Miles, no-one knew who he was, he comes from a small school in California no one had ever heard of, but by his senior year he’s a first team All-American. That right there deserves a statue, that he allowed Miles to be successful in his program.

Simon: But on a more serious note, thanks Rich.

Jefferson: Oh no problem, no problem.

Simon: We actually had this conversation earlier today about coach Olson’s ability to spot talent. Because we were kind of going through the procession of guards, when it went from Steve Kerr, to Khalid Reeves, to Damion Staudumier, to Mike Bibby, myself, Jason Gardner, so on and so on, and Jason Terry.

There was really only one Mcdonald's All-American in that group, and that was Mike Bibby. But to spot guys in that group like Channing Fry, who Richard’s known since high school..

Jefferson: And he was trash, let me just put this out there, he was trash..

Simon: To imagine that Channing Frye was going to have this long NBA career, or Michael Dickerson. The guys that coach Olson could spot and that he knew he could develop into great players, not only at the college level but also at the NBA level. He really had a special ability that you don’t see in many coaches.

Have you guys had a chance to look at the statue and is that the pose that you would have thought?

Jefferson: I have yet to see it, but when this event is over I am going to go over and drink with it, so you know that is going to be really really fun, I’m not going to tell anybody that I’m over there but..

Simon: I saw the pose, but I think maybe one, but you couldn't put Bennett Davison in the statue, where he was messing up coaches hair after we won the title, that would have been a great one. But Coach Olson winning the national title, that’s kind of the embodiment of his career.

Jefferson: If it wasn’t for Gilbert (Arenas), if he had made a few more shots we could have had two national championships, but we’ll save that for inside.


Follow Nate Airulla on Twitter @nateairulla.