TUCSON--University of Arizona athletics director Jim Livengood announced today that head men's basketball coach Lute Olson has requested and been given a leave of absence due to a personal matter.
Assistant coach Kevin O'Neill will handle the coach's duties in his absence, Livengood said, for as yet an unspecified time period.
"Lute asked for a leave of absence after yesterday’s football game,” said Livengood. “Every intention is that he will be back. We will do whatever is in the best interested of Lute and Christine.”
"Today we will move forward,” Livengood continued. “Kevin O’Neill will take over our basketball program.”
"Our players will carry on business as usual,” said O’Neill. “It’s really important to respect Lute’s and Christine’s wishes that this remain a personal matter.”
The 2007-08 season will be Olson’s 25th at Arizona and his 35th as an NCAA Division I head coach. He has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in that span amassing a career record of 780-280 (.736) and 589-187 (.759) at Arizona. During his 24-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, and been to the NCAA Tournament for 23 consecutive seasons, which is the longest active and second-longest streak in NCAA history.
"It's all about coaching and playing basketball for the time being, and respecting Coach Olson's wishes for privacy in the matter," O'Neill said. "We have plenty of work to do to uphold the legacy of excellence Lute's built into this program," he said.