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A bachelor no more

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA head coach Lute Olson smiles at a press conference yesterday as he fields questions regarding his engagement to Pennsylvania businesswoman Christine Toretti.
By Maxx Wolfson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday March 6, 2003

Wedding bells on horizon for Olson and Pennsylvania businesswoman

Don't worry: Lute Olson's new fiancÄ is not going to take him away from Tucson anytime soon.

Olson silenced rumors yesterday that this will be his last year of coaching after news spread that he is getting married April 12 to Christine Toretti.

"I couldn't be happier, and I feel very fortunate," Olson said. "Christine is looking forward to being a part of Arizona basketball and shares my excitement of that and the prospects of the next year and beyond."

Olson addressed a large group of media members yesterday for the first time since a Pittsburgh newspaper announced Tuesday that the two were engaged.
Christine Toretti

Toretti, 48, a mother of three boys, is the chairman and CEO of S.W. Jack Drilling, an oil and gas exploration drilling firm in Indiana, Pa., and is also strongly involved in Republican politics.

"She will be here during the school year but she will be keeping her home," Olson said. "She is not involved in the day-to-day operations (of her business)."

Toretti is from a small town in Pennsylvania called Indiana, population 25,000. She spends most of her time running around with her three teenage boys ¸ Joe, Max and Matthew ¸ who are active in sports, Olson said.

"Most of her life is based around her boys," he said. "I'm happy to take second on the totem pole."

The UA head coach met Toretti at an NCAA Foundation Dinner last April in Atlanta when former Arizona Athletic Director and then-NCAA president Cedric Dempsey asked him to speak. Dempsey's wife June knew that Olson and Toretti were both single, sat them next to each other and they hit it off from there.

"June called Christine yesterday looking for a finder's fee," Olson said.

Even though Olson has dedicated his life to basketball, his future wife isn't necessarily a basketball junkie.

When she was taking her seat at the NCAA dinner, someone told her that she was going to owe her big because she was sitting next to Lute Olson.

Toretti's response: "Who's Lute Olson?"

"She has really followed us closely," Olson said sarcastically.

So how did Olson pop the big question?

"We had discussed it before," he said smiling. "And she said, ╬Well, are you going to ask?'

"And I said, ╬OK, will you marry me?' And she said, ╬Yes.'"

But the proposal might never have happened on that day if the Wildcats hadn't come back from a 20-point halftime deficit against Kansas, Jan. 25 in Lawrence, Kan.

"I don't know if she would have had me if we didn't come back and win," he said. "I got her at a good moment."

Olson's wife of 47 years, Bobbi, died of ovarian cancer on New Year's Day 2001. Bobbi was nicknamed the "First Lady of Arizona basketball" and was considered a mother figure to many of Olson's player's during his coaching career. The floor at McKale Center was renamed in honor of both Lute and Bobbi shortly after her death.

Olson said his family is happy that he has found a new companion.

"I really rely more on my family for that, and the interesting thing from my family is they want me to be happy," he said. "Bobbi and I spent a lot of time together with recruiting and that has made my adjustment harder. My family just said, ╬Dad, we want you to be happy, and we can see the difference that Christine has made in your ife.'"

And what about all the Tucson women who are disappointed that the city's most eligible bachelor is now off the market?

"I know my own heart, and I know I'm happy," he said. "I don't have any control of the other hearts."

The timing of the announcement couldn't have come at a better time, according to Olson, because the team has already won the Pacific-10 Conference title and is playing at home this weekend.

"A week from now, it won't even be an issue," he said.

Olson said the wedding will be a small private affair and wouldn't say where it will take place, other than it will be in the United States.

There will be receptions in both Tucson and Indiana, Pa., sometime this summer or early fall.

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