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Divorce stress triggered leave, Olson tells ESPN

Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson, who previously said he would not discuss the medical condition that forced him to take a seasonlong leave, gave ESPN.com a reason Friday.

Olson said his divorce petition, filed Dec. 6 – the day he announced the leave would last all season – was the root cause.

“That was the whole situation,” Olson told Andy Katz of ESPN.com. “I obviously needed to take care of the stress and anxiety to be effective, to be fair to the kids (on the Arizona team).”

A handful of people know for sure. One who would presumably know is Olson’s estranged wife, Christine.

Her reaction Friday night to Olson’s disclosure of the stress of the divorce being the main cause of his leave: “He has to live with himself and what he says,” she told the Tucson Citizen’s Renée Schafer Horton.

Neither Olson nor Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood returned phone calls to the Citizen on Friday night.

Olson, 73, doesn’t have to offer details to the public. His health is his business, as long as the rules and regulations of the Family and Medical Leave Act were followed.

But there were consequences to Olson’s decision to keep his reasons private.

Crazy stuff poured out of the rumor mills and added to an air of uncertainty around the program.

Olson said in a recent interview with the Citizen and with ESPN.com that he could not talk because of the act’s provisions.

“So many of the local press wanted to know: Why doesn’t he say something about it?” Olson told ESPN.com.

“Well, if they had checked our state medical leave act, they’d understand,” he said. “It was a case where I couldn’t comment on anything nor could the athletic department.”

There is nothing in the act, however, that prohibits an employee from speaking about his or her leave, said Barney Holtzman, an employment law lawyer with Fennemore Craig PC.

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