Arizona Coach Olson Extends Leave, Files For Divorce

Friday, December 7th 2007, 4:28 pm
By: News On 6

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson is getting divorced. He filed a divorce petition in Pima County Superior Court on Thursday, the same day the 73-year-old coach said he would extend his leave from the team through the end of the season, Olson's lawyer, Leonard Karp, said Friday.

``The marriage has been irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation,'' Karp said.

He said Christine Olson, the Hall of Fame coach's second wife, is still living in Tucson. He did not know if she would remain in the city or if Olson was in Tucson on Friday.

``His request basically was that people honor his privacy,'' said Karp, who is authorized to speak on Olson's behalf.

``He's taken a lot of time to make this decision,'' he added. ``I think he needs the time to resolve these matters. Our hope is that once Christine retains her attorney that we can sit down and amicably resolve things.''

Olson announced his leave November 4th, saying the reasons were personal and not health related. In a statement released by the university Thursday announcing the leave extension, Olson said he plans to coach the Wildcats for the 2008-09 season.

``There are personal issues within my family that need to be addressed and I must devote my full energy to that,'' Olson said.

Karp said he didn't believe Olson would rescind his leave in light of the divorce filing.

``I think his statement is his true feelings, that he will be back next year but that he needs this time during this season to resolve his personal problem,'' Karp said.

Legal records supervisor Ray Rivas in the Superior Court clerk's office said court rules bar public scrutiny of divorce petitions until the filer's spouse has been served or 45 days have passed.

Athletic director Jim Livengood, in Chicago with the team, said: ``It's a personal family matter and should be addressed appropriately.''

The No. 22 Wildcats (5-2) play Illinois on Saturday.

Olson has coached Arizona for 24 seasons and posted a 589-187 record with 23 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. His Wildcats have won 11 Pac-10 championships, reached the Final Four four times and won the 1997 NCAA title.

Assistant Kevin O'Neill, the interim coach while Olson is gone, said Friday he's doing the best he can to fill in for ``someone who is true greatness.''

``I have great respect and admiration for what our players have done to this point in terms of focusing on basketball only in a very difficult situation _ a situation that, really, there's no blueprint for,'' O'Neill said.

Senior guard Jawann McClellan said the players want Olson back ``100 percent.''

``We wanted Coach Olson back more than anything, but first of all, we want him to do well and take care of Coach Olson,'' McClellan said. ``A lot of people don't realize that he's still human.''

Gordon James, a public relations executive who has represented the Olsons, had no comment other than to say, ``Mrs. Olson is en route from New York and will be issuing a statement.'' James said her flight was expected to arrive Friday evening.

Olson and his first wife, Bobbi, were married for 47 years before her 2001 death from ovarian cancer after a 2 1/2-year fight. The couple had five children.

She played an active role in Olson's basketball program, joining him on recruiting trips and even cooking pancakes for prospective players when they visited Tucson. Former players revered her for being instrumental in creating a family atmosphere. The university renamed the basketball floor the Lute & Bobbi Olson Court after her death.

In 2003, Olson married Christine Jack Toretti, a prominent, politically active Pennsylvania businesswoman who is 22 years his junior. Toretti, who took Olson's last name after their wedding, remains chief executive of an oil and gas drilling company and sits on several corporate boards. She has three sons from her first marriage.