Documentary a “beautiful tribute” to the life and career of Lute Olson

Lute Olson cut a dashing figure in his more than two decades as Arizona men’s basketball coach. Ask his players.

“When they talked about Lute’s presence, whether it was his height or his perfect hair, (they mentioned) the presence he commanded when he walked into a room,” said Brett Rapkin, producer of the upcoming movie. documentary, “Lute”. “Channing Frye spoke in the film about his mother saying, ‘Damn, he’s a handsome white man’ when Lute walked into the room.”

But more than anything, the dapper Olson – who died in August 2020 aged 85 – was the big winner.

Over 24 seasons, Olson built the Arizona Wildcats into a relevant and nationally respected college basketball program. Olson’s teams have appeared in 22 NCAA tournaments and qualified for the Final Four four times, winning the national championship in 1997.

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The life and legacy of the late Olson is the subject of “Lute,” which premieres at 5:30 p.m. Friday inside Centennial Hall on the UA campus. The documentary will also air on CBS in the upcoming season.

Rapkin, a former UA who was a freshman during the Wildcats’ run to the 1997 national championship, started the project after Olson’s death.

“When Lute died…I thought to myself, ‘Why wasn’t there a ’30 for 30’ or a definitive documentary about the Lute Olson era of basketball in Arizona? And we just managed to make it happen,” said Emmy Award-winning Rapkin. “The athletic department supported the project, wanted it to happen, and we were able to put the pieces together and luckily get almost every guy you’d want to see in the movie, including Luke Walton, who tells the movie.

Rapkin pitched his idea to Reggie Geary, Arizona’s director of development and former Wildcats star. Rapkin’s ties and resume with UA were enough for Geary to sign the film.

“As I got to know more about him, the more I thought, ‘Man, he’s a guy who can really do a great job of telling Coach Olson’s story. ‘” Geary said. “I think if people come out, they’ll be really happy with the product. That’s a lot of big names, great interviews and footage that he was able to use.

Geary, a former All-Pac-10 guard, is one of several ex-Wildcats featured in the film, along with Kenny Lofton, Steve Kerr, Andre Iguodala, Tom Tolbert, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Josh Pastner and Damon Stoudamire. Former Arizona star Jason Terry is the documentary’s executive producer.

Rapkin said creating Lute “was a great experience personally, but I really wanted to do it right and do it justice.”

“We go back a bit to Lute’s childhood and our childhood in North Dakota,” he said. “He lost his brother and father in accidents within months of each other, so I think a theme in his life was creating a sense of family, and I think he was able to do that with his wife. longtime Bobbi and their own family, but also creating a family atmosphere for the team…. So I think we made the definitive basketball movie of the Lute Olson era in Arizona that we envisioned.

Geary felt the family vibe when he arrived on campus in 1992.

“We are brothers. There is just something to do in this program and to have many of the same experiences at McKale, on campus, in this great community. I saw it when I got here,” Geary said. “As a player, I would come back in the summer and there was Steve Kerr playing pick-up or Jud Buechler, or Sean Elliott and Brian Williams. We would see those guys go to the NBA and then they would give it back to us. , and that’s something we passed on when we went to the pros I would come back and play with Gilbert Arenas and all the guys, so it’s just that family life that makes it a special place.

UA rookies noticed the close relationship between the players and Olson during their visit to campus. This was not the only discovery. Olson’s late wife, Bobbi, charmed weekend visitors with her famous apple pancakes.

“Sean Elliott still has his mouth watering when he talks about Bobbi Olson’s apple pancakes. It’s awesome,” Rapkin said.

UA coach Lute Olson holds the net for fans after Arizona beat Kentucky 84-79 in overtime to win the 1997 national championship.

ED REINKE, Associated Press 1997

The documentary focuses primarily on the ’97 season, when Arizona beat three No. 1 seeds in Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas to win it all.

“These guys have become superstars. If they weren’t superstars before March, they definitely were once this tournament was over,” Rapkin said. “They caught the attention of the whole country.”

Then other superstars flocked to Tucson to be part of an Olson-designed desert basketball juggernaut.

“I remember seeing Luke Walton driving around Tucson in a white convertible. … Those were the rockstars you heard about,” Rapkin said.

The hour-long screening at Centennial Hall on Friday will be followed by a Q&A with Rapkin, Terry and other producers of the film.

“We are going to see a beautiful tribute to Coach Olson, his life, his career and the legacy he has here in our community,” Geary said.

Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or [email protected] On Twitter: @JustinESports

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