Arizona's O'Neill doesn't seek control of Olson's program
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Kevin O'Neill is set to coach Arizona (No 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) the rest of the season. He's just not ready to take over the program permanently from Hall of Famer Lute Olson.
"This is not my team," O'Neill said Thursday. "If it is anybody's team it is Lute's team until he decides he does not want to coach anymore. That is the way I would look at Arizona basketball, either short term or long term."
O'Neill coached at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern before a stint in the NBA. He was hired to add a stronger defensive presence as an assistant coach to Olson after the 2006-07 season.
O'Neill has been the acting head coach with Olson going on a leave of absence for personal matters on Nov. 4. Olson announced last week he would not return this season, but would be back next year. He did not offer a reason but has filed for divorce.
"Kevin O'Neill is a really good coach and a really good man on and off the court. We respect Lute's privacy right now," forward Jordan Hill said. "He wants to sit out the rest of the year and we are going to keep him in our prayers and let him know we are always here for him. Coach O'Neill is doing a really good job."
The Wildcats are 6-2, including a pair of come-from-behind victories over Texas A&M and at Illinois. They are at home against Fresno State on Sunday.
Olson is 780-280 overall in 35 collegiate seasons, with a 589-187 record in 25 years at Arizona.
"It was a little bit of a distraction, but Coach O'Neill tried to keep us focused and got some wins and we also got some tough losses," Arizona freshman guard Jerryd Bayless said. "Now we know coach O'Neill is our leader and we are definitely going to focus on the season and hopefully get some wins out of it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press