University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson’s wife said she was served with divorce papers Thursday night in New York.
“Our family has been struggling through a difficult and private matter for some months now,” said Christine Olson said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“It was our hope that during my husband’s temporary leave of absence, we would be able to focus on our family and successfully address this matter. Unfortunately, it seems that my husband has reached a decision that he is unable to continue our relationship together during this difficult time.
“While I am personally devastated I remain committed to my marriage and will continue to support my husband through this difficult time in his life. I have nothing but love and respect for him,” Christine Olson said.
Olson was in New York for meetings involving the Republican party, in which she’s active as a national committeewoman.
The Olsons were scheduled to be in Chicago Friday night, Christine Olson said in the statement. When Christine Olson got the divorce papers, she immediately flew home, according to the press release with the statement.
“I want to thank everyone in advance for your support and prayers. We request that the media please respect our family’s privacy at this time,” Christine Olson said.
The attorney representing University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson in his divorce case said marital issues contributed to his continuing leave of absence.
“I think it is one of the causes of the leave of absence,” Leonard Karp said Friday. “It’s a family matter that needs to be dealt with.
“He has every intention of being coach of the team next year,” Karp said.
Olson and his wife of four years, Christine, had a prenuptial agreement, Karp said.
“I assume Christine will retain her own counsel and hopefully start the process by sitting down and working out whatever issues there are,” Karp said.
“And hopefully, it will be amicable.”
Karp said there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period after a divorce petition is filed until a decree can be issued.
Gordon James, a Phoenix public relations executive who has represented the Olsons, said he could offer no immediate comment.
“Mrs. Olson is en route from New York and will be issuing a statement,” he said.
James said her flight was expected to arrive Friday evening.
Lute Olson won’t be making any statements, Karp said.
“He would appreciate being given some privacy,” Karp said.
“He’s given so much to the community and to the university and to the city,” Karp said. “We would hope that people would give him that courtesy.”
Lute Olson filed the divorce petition in Pima County Superior Court on Thursday, Karp confirmed.
Olson married Christine Toretti in April 2003 in Las Vegas.
The coach’s first wife, Bobbi, died of cancer in 2001.
Olson was unavailable for comment Friday.
Athletic director Jim Livengood, who was in Chicago with the team, declined to comment.
“It’s a personal family matter and should be addressed appropriately.”
Olson took a leave of absence from coaching on Nov. 4, saying only that he had a personal matter to deal with.
Thursday night, UA officials said Olson had asked for and was granted a leave of absence for the rest of the basketball season.
Olson said in a statement that “there are personal issues within my family that need to be addressed, and I must devote my full energy to that.”
He said his plan was to return to coaching next season.
At the Board of Regents meeting in Tempe Friday, UA President Robert Shelton said he had not been told that the family matter Olson was dealing with was a divorce.
“They’re both good people and I wish them well,” Shelton said of Olson and his wife.
Shelton said he was confident that Olson will return to coaching next season.
Taking the year’s leave of absence will “help him resolve how he wants to move forward” with the team, Shelton said.
“Lute Olson is one of the last persons whose word I would ever doubt,” Shelton said. “He is as honest as the day is long. And so I trust he will be back.”
UA student body president Tommy Bruce said the news of Olson’s divorce petition “will just cause all the students to rally around Lute in support.”
“We know he’ll be with us next year and he’s with us this year in spirit.”
The 22nd-ranked Wildcats (5-2) are playing Illinois in Chicago on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Check back for updates.
LUTE OLSON’S STATEMENT
“After consultation with my family, I have decided to extend my leave of absence for the remainder of the current basketball season. I do this with great reluctance, because I care greatly about the University of Arizona, the basketball program and the players on this team. But there are personal issues within my family that need to be addressed, and I must devote my full energy to that.
“I plan to return to coach at the University of Arizona next year. In the meantime, my heart will be with the team, the coaches and staff. Our student athletes are in great hands, and I wish for them nothing but success with the remainder of the season.
“To our basketball fans and the community, I ask your patience in allowing me the time to attend to my personal situation. I am most grateful for the statements of support and prayers that have been offered, and look forward to a return to more normal activities in the months ahead.
“Thank you for your understanding.”
Source: Arizona Media Relations