Lute Olson may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
His legacy stretches far beyond the 589 games he won in Tucson, and here are six things the Arizona Wildcats can do to ensure that it will live on, though the statue they constructed a couple years ago was a good start.
Bring back the Lute-era uniforms
Arizona’s gradient uniforms were out of style from the moment they were released in 2016, and for some reason they’ve kept them. But now is a perfect time to return to their roots and reintroduce the uniforms they won a national championship in.
You know, these beauties:
They wouldn’t even need a modern redesign, only reigned in so they are not so baggy. Otherwise, they are incredible as they are. They just scream Lute Olson.
If not, then at least add a jersey patch
If new (or in the case, old) uniforms aren’t in store, the very least Arizona can do is stamp a commemorative “LO” or “Lute” patch on their jerseys for the 2020-21 season.
They could even take it a step further and do what Marquette has done with Al McGuire, and make Olson’s name/initials a permanent feature of their uniforms.
Name the arena after him
Look, Pop McKale accomplished a lot as Arizona’s athletic director, football coach and basketball coach in the early 20th century, including creating many of the traditions we love today, like “Bear Down” and the Wildcats nickname.
But nobody has done more for Arizona basketball than Olson. He’s the reason McKale Center was, and still is, one of the best venues in the game.
His teams made McKale the place to be, and fans should be reminded of that every time they step into the arena.
Yes, the court is already named after Lute and Bobbi Olson, but ticket stubs, broadcasts, and other mediums always say Arizona’s games are being played in “McKale Center.”
Let’s redirect the attention to the man who made it what it is today.
Put the cactus on the court again
OK, fine. Here’s some middle ground. Bring back the cactus logo that graced the court during the Lute era. It was not only a nice aesthetic, it was uniquely Arizona.
Hey, we even have a modern rendering from our talented friend Alejandro Alvarez!
Since Lute’s retirement, Arizona has done this weird thing where it’s become very generic, ditching its iconic uniforms and court design for ones you see all over the country, a real disservice to a program that worked so hard to become its own brand under Olson.
A large gathering—when those are acceptable again
Dozens of people paid their respects at Olson’s statue on the north side of McKale late Thursday night, which made me think of how the coronavirus pandemic will prevent Olson from being honored the way he should have. At least for the time being.
Arizona football was supposed to open its season two days after Olson’s death. Can you imagine the kind of tribute the school could have rolled out at Arizona Stadium?
When Lute’s statue was unveiled a couple years ago, the school hosted a private gathering outside McKale for his closest friends, colleagues and players.
At least hundred people showed up, including many of the big names you’d expect. For a public event, Arizona could pack McKale two times over.
Hopefully that can happen in the somewhat near future. It’d only be right.
Make the freaking Final Four
Olson coached Arizona to its first Final Four in 1988 and its last one all the way back in 2001.
It’s been hard to explain how such a storied program with so many talented players has failed to reach the big stage over the last two decades—well, besides the fact there’s been a lot of heartbreak—but that streak is bound to end eventually.
And when it does, it will be for Lute. And hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.