Lute Olson memorialized by loving grandson Matt Brase and more

Arzona coach Lute Olson smiles during post game press conference after 88-63 victory over Cal in the first round of the Pacific Life Pac-10 men's basketball tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Thursday, March 10, 2005. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images)
Arzona coach Lute Olson smiles during post game press conference after 88-63 victory over Cal in the first round of the Pacific Life Pac-10 men's basketball tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Thursday, March 10, 2005. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images) /

Lute Olson (aka Coach O or Papa Lute), was properly laid to rest as his grandson Matt Brase, former players, Athletic Directors, media, and family helped us all heal from the loss of this great coach and man.

Lute Olson‘s family, fans, former players, current Arizona Basketball coach Tommy Lloyd and his family, all finally got a chance to memorialize Lute with tears, laughter, memories, smiles, and hugs. It was a walk down memory lane and it was also a chance to get personal insights into the man we call Lute, but the Olson family calls Poppa Lute.

The event started the night before with a dinner at a local restaurant where the family and the players were able to catch up. Many of the players spoke about how they felt a part of the family. This is something that Lute and Bobbie, his late wife, were known for, once you were part of the family you are always part of the family.

I have personally never met a more warm, sweet, and inviting family that always makes me feel wanted, loved, and cared for. That is Lute’s legacy, just as much as his basketball legacy.

Then the next evening we gathered in the indoor football practice facility which was air-conditioned for the tailgate. We can thank Rich Rodriguez and Dave Heeke for their vision.

We were all there for a memorial, and the family wanted this event to be uplifting, a celebration of his life. It was during the tailgate I realized that Channing Frye was a baby whisperer. He has a way with babies, and he helped with one of Lute’s great-grandsons when he got fussy and brought smiles to the babies’ faces, it was adorable.

Arriving at McKale, it was so heartwarming to see all his former players greeting Lute’s family and their fellow alumni in celebration of Lute’s life.

What made this event special, was hearing some stories you never have heard before because they came from grandson Matt Brase, whom Steve Kerr used to bounce on his knee, his former assistant coach Jim Rosborough, and his best friend Paul Weitman who Coach met on charter flights to games.

Weitman told a few stories about how Lute was a neat freak. He also had his team take walks before games. While he and Lute walked behind the team during an away pre-game walk, he saw a player jump and hide in the bushes, Lute didn’t see him. When the team came back past the bush, the player jumped back into the team. Weitman decided to keep the secret of who that player was and didn’t divulge the players’ name.

Another fun story Weitman told was when he and his wife were on vacation with Bobbi and Lute. It was raining, and Lute had kept the umbrella over his hair, and Weitman reminded him to put the umbrella over his wife too, and he thought Lute had hesitated.

In addition to the importance of family, there was another theme of the memorial, and that was Lute’s appearance and his hair, starting with the Kerr recounting his mom crushing on coach. Jason Terry remembered how Lute used to talk to his players and how he made a positive impact on his their lives.

Andre Iguodala likened how Lute developed players to how venture capitalists also build a business. Iggy also mentioned that Coach O talked him into following Kerr’s vision to bring him off the bench. He ultimately won the MVP in the 2015 NBA Championship as the sixth man.

Kerr and Olson were right, “He was a VC [venture capitalist] but he was batting 900! He was one of the best venture capitalists I’ve ever seen” explained Iguodala. Lute took rough talent and built them up to perform on the court and in life, for life after basketball. Iggy stressed how Lute emphasized giving back and made sure “Coach Olson lives on forever.”

Papa Lute’s grandson, and Portland Trailblazers Assistant Coach Matt Brase, brought McKale to tears. From recounting times in the car rides from Coronado to Tucson in the Summer, guessing the temperature outside knowing the temperature would dip as soon as they got into a higher elevation.

Brase also let us know that Julie Brase Hairgrove, his sister and Assistant Coach for the Phoenix Mercury, was about to commit to ASU to play for the Sun Devils, but after a talk with Papa Lute, things changed.

Papa told her “I think you should go to a school where I can watch you practice every single day,” and Julie, who continues to hold the state’s record for most points scored in high school, ended up following her grandpa’s advice.

Another fun fact, Matt told us all that while Lute watched the Olympics, he seemed to be a master at every sport, that he discussed strategy and how the athletes could win medals, he felt he could coach any sport.

Matt recounted being by his Mama Bobbi’s bedside in her last days and how Lute asked him to “Be strong, I need you to be strong” as he was holding her hand. Lute was such a leader and he was proud of all his former players and the success they had on and off the court, “The fact is you made this group winners in life.”

The final speaker was Lute’s assistant coach that followed him from Iowa to Tucson, Jim Rosborough, who Matt introduced. Rosborough told Matt, “Let me get up here and cry for about five minutes, what are you doing [Matt]?” The former Arizona assistant coach recounted how Lute was very hard on Jason Terry, but Terry’s jersey is now hanging in McKale as a result. Applause erupted.

Rosborough got a ton of laughs recalling a story about Chris Rogers and Lute. For some reason, Lute was charging at Rogers who was overplaying the drills, and Rogers took off running down the hallway during break down drills, and the team had to hold back Lute so he couldn’t get to Rogers.

“This guy was probably the best college coach there has ever been,” explained Rosoborough who coached with Lute for 27 years, “That’s why you guys were always good… the guy was phenomenal, he was a genius!”

He told the crowd that for 17 years under Lute, Arizona held the record for winning percentage. “We all owe him… he gave us a chance in life… he loved us all.” He ended his portion by getting all the former players and those in attendance in a defensive stance and did a quick drill. “So you are going to get down in a stance, which will be the first time for some of you.” Haha…

Brian Jeffries moderated this great celebration of life, and he ended the ceremony with his remarks, he got emotional, and that was a perfect ending to the day.

If you missed it, you can watch it all HERE.

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