This past week we saw two legendary university basketball coaches pass away. On Thursday, former University of Arizona Wildcats head coach Lute Olson of Mayville, ND died at the age of 85, and then on Monday, former University of Georgetown Hoyas head coach John Thompson of Washington, D.C. died at the age of 78.
Olson coached the Wildcats from 1983 to 2008. In that time, he had a record of 589 wins and 187 losses, for an impressive winning percentage of .759. In 1997, Olson led the Wildcats to a NCAA Division I Championship. The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 84-79 in overtime from the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, IN. It is the only time ever that the University of Arizona has won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
In 2001, the University of Arizona Wildcats returned to the NCAA Championship game, but lost 82-72 to the University of Duke Blue Devils. That game was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN.
In addition to coaching the University of Arizona, Olson coached Long Beach City College from 1969 to 1973, Long Beach State from 1973 to 1974, and the University of Iowa from 1974 to 1983. On the international side, Olson coached the United States to a gold medal at the 1986 World Cup in Spain. In the gold medal game, the United States beat the Soviet Union 87-85. The star on the United States in 1986 was future NBA Hall of Fame center David Robinson.
Thompson coached the Hoyas from 1972 to 1999. He had a record of 596 wins and 239 losses for a winning percentage of .714.
Thompson is widely regarded as the first African-American head coach to win the NCAA Division I basketball championship. In 1986, Thompson led the Hoyas to the 1984 title as Georgetown beat Houston 84-75 at the Kingdome in Seattle. Thompson also led the Hoyas to the NCAA Division I final, but the Hoyas lost to North Carolina in 1982, and the University of Villanova in 1985. As a player, Thompson also won two NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics in 1965 and 1966.
Olson and Thompson were also inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Olsen was inducted in 2002, and Thompson was inducted in 1999.