Current, former Hawkeyes react to death of legendary coach Lute Olson

Olson, who led the Iowa men's basketball program for nine seasons, died Thursday at the age of 85.

Iowa+head+coach+Fran+McCaffery+draws+up+plays+during+a+timeout+during+a+men%E2%80%99s+basketball+game+between+Iowa+and+Penn+State+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+29+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Nittany+Lions+77-68.+

Nichole Harris

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery draws up plays during a timeout during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


Former Iowa men’s basketball coach Lute Olson, who led the team to the Final Four in 1980, died at the age of 85 Thursday while in hospice care.

The Hall of Fame coach led Iowa for nine seasons and brought the program back to national prominence. Olson took Iowa to five NCAA Tournaments before leaving to coach at Arizona for 24 years. He took the Wildcats to 23 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and won the national title in 1997.

Friday morning, current and former Hawkeyes released statements on the death of one of Iowa’s all-time great coaches.

Iowa head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of former head coach and Hall of Famer Lute Olson. I will always remember the way he embraced me when I was hired as the Hawkeye coach. Lute expressed many times how proud he was and how much he loved coaching at Iowa. Over the years, Margaret and I became good friends with Lute and his wife Kelly, which is something that I will forever cherish. Lute will be missed by everyone in the Iowa basketball family.”

Assistant basketball coach and former player Kirk Speraw

“Playing for Coach Olson shaped my vision on how to teach the game of basketball. He gave me my start in coaching and helped me throughout my career. He was an incredible coach, teacher, mentor, and friend. All of us in the Coach O basketball family will greatly miss him.”

Former player and All-American Ronnie Lester

“Coach Olson will always be remembered with the class and respect he lived by. He did things with class and was always respectful of others. He was not just a coach, but a positive role model, as he was a man of faith (never heard him curse), a husband, and a father. Lute changed the culture of Iowa Basketball by just being who he was. He believed that if you worked harder than the next team, you should have high expectations. He pushed us to believe in ourselves and the results of winning games reinforced that belief. I am very thankful for having played for him, as I learned a lot about basketball and most importantly about doing things the right way. I have much love and respect for Coach Olson.”

Former player Bob Hansen

“It is with great sadness we learned about Coach Olson’s passing. He battled his health setbacks over the last few years with the same competitive energy and strength as he displayed over his many years on the sidelines. It was an honor to be coached by someone who embraced the qualities of integrity, honesty and hard work; lessons that I carry with me every day. Coach O loved his Hawkeye Family and will be dearly missed by all. Prayers for strength and comfort to his wife Kelly and all of Coach Olson’s family and friends.”

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