Lute Olson will return to Arizona next season

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson is returning to the Wildcats at the end of the season.

Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood confirmed the 73-year-old Olson, who has been on personal leave since Nov. 4, will come back under a contract that runs through 2011.

Questions have swirled about the reasons for Olson’s leave for months. Olson said in a statement it was necessitated “by a medical condition that was not life-threatening, but serious enough to require time away from my coaching responsibilities.”

That’s a change from a statement Olson issued on the day he took his leave. He said then he wanted to “reassure everyone that this isn’t a health scare, but rather a personal matter that needs my undivided attention.”

When the leave was later extended to the entire season, Olson said in a statement, “There are personal issues within my family that need to be addressed and I must devote my full energy to that.”

Arizona is 18-13 and 8-10 in the Pac 10 this season under interim coach Kevin O”Neill.

Livengood said O’Neill “has handled a very difficult situation with tremendous poise, and I can’t begin to say how appreciative we are of the job he has done.”

Olson is 780-280 in 34 seasons overall and 589-187 in 24 years at Arizona. He’s led the team to 23 straight NCAA berths, the nation’s longest active streak.

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