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Lute Olson showed you can compete, show civility in ASU-UA rivalry

The news first broke of former Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson less than 24 hours ago.

Since then, sports figures from across the state of Arizona and around the nation have provided stories and warm thoughts of the late Arizona coaching great.

But out of the many who have praised the coach for the way he handled himself throughout his career, the reaction from his biggest rival has been especially noted.

The Arizona State Sun Devils, their alumni and fans, took a timeout from the in-state rivalry with the Wildcats to pay tribute to a man who gave the school fits over his tenure at Arizona.

Of those who spoke on Olson’s character and resolve, former ASU head coach Bill Frieder put it perfectly for both sides of the state.

“Lute and I proved that you could compete hard on the court but be civil to each other after,” Frieder said in a statement. “I encourage everyone in the college basketball coaching world to cherish your friendships now. Keep them strong. Don’t let an intense game or a recruiting battle hurt them. Stay in touch. Get to know your coaching friends. I know that is what Lute and I did and I am thankful for it.”

Frieder and Olson were connected in more ways than just on the hardwood.

The duo spent time together on the set of many different Bank One commercials throughout the 90s, putting the rivalry front and center across Arizona in a fun and enjoyable way.

“The commercials were so much fun and were instrumental in bringing the schools together,” Frieder said. “The memories of dinners and having such great times with our wives will be there forever, in fact my daughter Laura has a great relationship with the Olson family.”

But Frieder wasn’t the one to join to reminisce about times shared with Olson, as others joined Arizona Sports to tell their stories of the coach on Friday.

Damon Stoudamire, former Wildcat player

“When he left Iowa I think that he probably had in his mind that if things went well at Arizona he’d probably end it all there. I mean what more could you ask for? You had a great campus, You had great weather. And once he started turning the tide eon recruiting, you knew you couldn’t beat him.”

Russ Pennell, Former Wildcats/Sun Devils assistant coach

“I think of the ultimate gentleman … I have a dual perspective. I competed against him for 6 or 7 years when I was at Arizona State as an assistant coach and he was always so kind in the offseason. You’d see him out recruiting where he would always speak and talk and he carried himself in the utmost honorable manner. You were his arch-rival yet he treated you with such respect. Then I got a chance to be around him a little bit and he was everything I thought he would be.”

Todd Walsh, D-backs broadcaster

“Commanded and demanded respect immediately. It was a presence and an air and you guys have been around him I’m sure and you’ve felt it. When he walked in the room he owned the room. If it was the living room trying to get a recruit, if it was practice, if it was the huddle in a timeout or those 15 minutes before they hit the court for warmups — there was a presence.”

Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star reporter

“He turned it around. He put them on equal footing. ASU had, Bill Frieder was a quality coach, and Lute just dominated the guy and his presence was such.”


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