Childhood friends remember the late Lute Olson

Friends of Olson's from Mayville, North Dakota say they watched his career and success all along and were proud to have grown up with him.

MAYVILLE, N.D. –North Dakota lost one of its sports heroes this week with the passing of legendary basketball coach Lute Olson.

Olson was born on a farm near Hatton, North Dakota and grew up in Mayville, where he was a basketball star. He played his final year of high school ball at Grand Forks Central before heading to Augsburg University for college.

Olson coached at Long Beach State and Iowa before creating a powerhouse program at the University of Arizona between 1983 and 2008. During that time, he led the wildcats to 23 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and a national title in 1997.

Olson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Those who grew up with Olson in small-town North Dakota followed his career closely and were proud to watch one of their own find so much national success.

“He was a claim to fame in Mayville,” said Olson’s childhood friend Shirley Gummer. “Held in high esteem because he was such a fine young man. He was so driven and wanted to be a coach and to work with kids.”

“He still had good fond memories of his upbringing and childhood and growing up in small area North Dakota. Even when he was coaching I mentioned to him, just as a friend, I said we sure would love to have you come back to North Dakota and to particularly Mayville so that we can maybe give you a key to the small city so to speak,” said Olson’s high school teammate, Jim Lande.

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