Tuesday, May 20, 2014
What would it take? Kevin Ollie
By C.L. Brown
Editor’s note: Some coaches’ names always seem to come up for other jobs. But what would it take for them to actually leave? This week, we’ll look at the names most often mentioned. Today, we look at UConn’s Kevin Ollie.
Ollie played for Jim Calhoun at UConn from 1991 to '95. He met his wife in Storrs, Conn. And despite having many offers to begin his coaching career in the NBA, he returned to UConn as an assistant coach in 2010. Ollie, a Los Angeles native, loves being the caretaker of his alma mater, especially being Calhoun’s hand-picked successor. UConn might not advertise it much, but it’s important for the program to stay within the family. It’s not a coincidence that all of Ollie’s coaching staff played for the Huskies.
Kevin Ollie's experience and stature among NBA teams will continue to make him a sought-after coaching candidate.
It’s kind of silly now to think that Ollie’s original contract was signed for a seven-month trial period, but at the time he was an assistant coach with no experience who had just returned to the college game and was being asked to replace the architect of UConn basketball. From his first game, an upset of Michigan State in Germany, Ollie proved to be up to the challenge. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright couldn’t coexist in the backcourt with each other in Calhoun’s final season, but one of Ollie’s first big accomplishments was making them realize they weren’t competing with each other. It goes to show why Ollie is wanted as a head coach. He knows how to relate to and motivate his players. The Huskies were banned from the 2013 postseason due to low APR scores -- through no fault of his own -- but Ollie led them to a 20-10 season despite being unable to play for a championship.
And of course his second year was even better. Ollie guided an unheralded No. 7 seed to the Huskies’ fourth national championship. He's just as proud that when the APR results were released last week, Ollie’s first season as head coach produced a perfect score.
What would it take?
The Cleveland Cavaliers made inquiries. The Los Angeles Lakers made overtures. In both cases, Ollie resisted the urge to jump to the league where he spent 13 seasons playing for 11 different teams. It’s probably safe to say that Ollie would not leave UConn for another college program. But the NBA? That could be a matter of timing. At just 41 years old, Ollie is in no rush. He could be waiting for his 13-year-old daughter Cheyenne to go through high school before being open to coaching in the league. Ollie’s new contract at UConn, which will reportedly be finalized on Wednesday, changes little on the surface. It might end speculation for this offseason, but NBA teams will continue to seek his services and his name will continue to be floated this time next season when openings arise. The contract may make a bigger difference from Ollie’s perspective. It signifies the university reaffirming its commitment to him. UConn was proactive during his first season in tearing up the seven-month contract and presenting a five-year deal before the Huskies finished nonconference play in December 2012. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that Ollie was first approached about a new contract this year after the Huskies beat Iowa State in the Sweet 16 in March.
Possibilities: Ollie has a Calhoun-like tenure in Storrs. Or Ollie has the itch to coach in the NBA and is just waiting for the right opening.