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Lute Olson's Wife Passes Away

Bobbi Olson, the wife of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson for 47 years, died Monday after a 2 1/2 year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 65.

Her husband has been on an indefinite leave of absence since Saturday to be with her and was by her side, along with other family members.

"Bobbi faced her illness with great courage," Olson said in a statement. "Her love of family remained her priority and even in her last moments she continued taking care of and comforting all of us as only a wife and mother can do."

Players learned of the news Monday morning at a practice that was subsequently canceled by associate head coach Jim Rosborough, who ran the team Saturday night against Mississippi State and Dec. 9 at Connecticut when Olson left the team to stay with his wife.

Rosborough would not speculate on when Olson would return to the team.

"Clearly it's a situation when he's ready everybody would want him back," he said. "But we haven't discussed it yet."

Bobbi Olson played an active role in the program, joining her husband on recruiting trips and even cooking pancakes for prospective players when they came to visit Tucson. She was seen by many players as a basketball mother, and they honored her Saturday night by writing her name on their gear.

"If you were able to see our game on Saturday night and see the concern and passion that our players have," athletic director Jim Livengood said. "The fact that they went out and played at all is a testament to them."

Livengood said it's no coincidence that the Wildcats - ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press' preseason poll - have struggled trying to keep their minds on the court, where they have lost four games thus far.

Born Roberta Rae Russell, she married Lute Olson on Nov. 27, 1953, after the two met at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. They have five children and 13 grandchildren.

She was treated at the Arizona Cancer Center in 1998 and was found to have no evidence of the disease after that. But the cancer reappeared this year, although Olson remained upbeat about her health.

"I just feel I've had a wonderful life," she told the Arizona Daily Star in April. "God has a plan for all of us, and if that's his plan, that will be it."

Her husband thanked the Tucson community for its support and respect of their privacy and also requested that the players be allowed to mourn Monday and not speak publicly about her death.

Both a private service and a public memorial are being planned, although details were pending Monday evening. The family has also established a memorial fund in Bobbi Olson's name at the Arizona Cancer Center.

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