Category Archives: Phil Nolan

UConn vs. Villanova: Setting The Scene In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Syracuse basketball, UConn men's basketball

BUFFALO, N.Y. – We’re in the First Niagara Center, been watching Syracuse and Dayton having a terrible time offensively.

The UConn traveling party, players, coaches and staff, walked past me in the hallway as I made my way back to the work room. The Huskies had their game faces on, I assure you (I mean, whatever that is, coach Knight.)

Okay, Dayton beats the Orange in dramatic fashion, the Huskies are about to take the floor. We’re maybe 25 minutes away. … Let’s set the scene at 9:30 p.m.…

UConn is playing for its season tonight, in a couple of ways. They are battling Villanova for survival, to get to the Sweet `16. They are also playing for the perception of the season. If the Huskies reach the Sweet 16, then whatever was to happen in New York next week, the season would have to be considered an unqualified success. No one can quarrel with 24-7, no one can quarrel with reached the AAC final and losing to Louisville, and no one could quarrel with being one of the last 16 standing.

If the Huskies lose, you could say they fell came up a tad short. Past UConn teams, it seemed, always went as far, and usually a step or two further, than they were expected to go in March. That’s the history. That’s the standard.

These two teams, Villanova and UConn, are more evenly matched than the No. 2 vs. No. 7 seedings suggest, IMO.

Same lineup UConn has been using since March 13 – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan. … Amida Brimah, off his clutch play against St. Joe’s, will probably be in before long. By not starting him, it keeps him from getting a foul in the first minute. If there’s a change, we’ll update.

Villanova’s usual lineup: James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Aarcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard.

The refs are Jamie Luckie, Antinio Petty, Kip Kissinger

Look for Josh Hart, who played very well off the bench in the Wildcats first game, to get in there quickly tonight.

 Programming note: With the late start, and early Saturday night newspaper deadlines, I will not be able to do as much on twitter as usual, but I’ll do what I can on that front. (@AmoreCourant and @JacobsCourant are our handles.)

UConn vs. Louisville: One More Time, Setting The Scene in Memphis

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Rick Pitino, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

MEMPHIS – Looking live at the FedEx Arena, the Huskies and Cardinals go for the American Athletic Conference title in about half an hour. Let’s set the scene:

As always, a steady stream of well-wishers come down to say hello to Jim Calhoun, seated to my right, or ask for a picture. … The coach likes what he’s seen, and he is upbeat, let’s put it that way.

Anticipating same lineup for UConn: Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels.

Tyler Olander is here, out on the floor with his teammates, so he’s apparently recovered sufficiently from his stomach bug.

Your refs: Ted Valentine, Gerry Pollard, Steve Olson.

I’m guessing there will be maybe 7-8,000 here when all is said and done. Louisville is 385 miles away, and there were a lot of red-clad tourists out on Beale Street today, so there will be more pro-Cardinal noise here.

At the tail end of last night’s game, the refs did review the Sean Kilpatrick miss, but didn’t see anything to change the ruling.

Thanks to Joe D. for having me on his pregame show. Hope you-all gave a listen.

After last night’s game, Kevin Ollie was asked about his summer with the Celtics in 1999, when Rick Pitino cut him.

“Rick – actually I grew so much with Rick that summer,” he said, “so I became a better point guard with him and he came to the decision where he had to let me go but when you have a set?back like that it just gets you ready for another opportunity.  It’s nothing against Rick, I love Rick to death.  He’s a Hall of Fame coach, he’s a great coach, a good friend of mine and I could learn a lot from Rick Pitino.”

Here is a Selection Sunday primer we did for the Sunday Courant.

UConn vs. Cincinnati: Setting The Semifinal Scene in Memphis

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball

MEMPHIS  – Looking live at the FedEx Forum which, safe to say, will not be as full or loud as it was a 24 hours ago when the host team was playing.

Louisville has beaten Houston 94-65, with Russ Smith scoring 42 points. Maybe he’s ticked off about the award, too?

Let’s set the scene … Jim Calhoun, who is to my right, was amused by the fuss caused by his vague remarks to ESPN about coaching again. “I’m not planning on coaching again,” he said.

But he’s not shutting the door and never has. … Why should he?

Same lineup for the Huskies – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels and  Phil Nolan. No sense changing it. Kevin Ollie liked the way Giffey’s presence spread the floor, giving Napier and Boatright room to operate.

Omar Calhoun didn’t get into the game last night. He’s out shooting with his teammates right now, though. Tyler Olander is out for UConn; he has a stomach virus.

Napier was one of six finalists for the Hall of Fame’s Bob Cousy Award, presented to the nation’s top point guard. The other five are Kyle Anderson of UCLA, Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Marcus Paige of North Carolina, Aaron Craft of Ohio State and Fred VanVleet of Wichita State. The Hall’s committee will present the award at the Final Four.

AAC commish Mike Aresco said the league will take a month to six weeks to consider other offers before deciding whether or not to pick up its option to return to Memphis for the tournament next year. Hartford and Orlando are possible sites if the league moves for 2015. Aresco said the plan is to move the tournament around over the next decade in any event. Lots more on this in the UConn notebook for the Saturday Courant, going up soon on our website.

UConn vs. Memphis: Setting the Scene at FedEx Forum

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Rick Pitino, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball

MEMPHIS – Looking live at the court at the FedEx Center. Cincinnati has fought off Central Florida, 61-58, in a very characteristic, Cincinnati-like game. Sean Kilpatrick scored 21.

Now it’s UConn vs. Memphis in about 25 minutes.  Jim Calhoun and his son, Jeff, are sitting courtside. The FedEx Forum has been filling steadily the last hour or so, folks catching the second half of the early game. It will be completely loaded for the host team.

The Huskies heard the boos as they came out on the floor just now.

Hearing that UConn will tweak the starting lineup tonight:

Phil Nolan is expected to start at center in place of Amida Brimah, and Niels Giffey for Lasan Continue reading

UConn 51, Cincinnati 45: Wrapping Things Up At XL

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

HARTFORD  – Grrrrrrr. As in grind, grit, gutting it out. All those G-words applied to UConn’s win over Cincinnati, a physical game, a guy thing. The Huskies have proven their mental toughness, here they showed mental and physical toughness (for the most part).

I’m not into style points or worrying about who plays how many minutes or the various stats at this time of year. You just need to put wins in the bank, and especially against a ranked, first-place team like Cincy, the Huskies need to win any which way they could.

They got it done. They’re 23-6. You know, things just aren’t that bad. Here’s the game story for the Sunday Courant.

 Raspy voice and all, here is the full 10 minutes of Kevin Ollie, unplugged:

“Great game by us, not offensively, but defensively, which is what we hang our hats on. I told the guys, there are going to be droughts in the game, but you can’t have droughts on defense in your energy or effort. If you watched the game, there were no let-ups.

… I pretty much told them it was going to be 90 percent punches and 10 percent plays. There weren’t going to be a lot of X’s and O’s, there were going to be a lot of punches Continue reading

UConn 61, South Florida 56: Wrapping Things Up At The Sun Dome

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

TAMPA, Fla. – This UConn victory was one of those games that takes on a life of its own, or a definition of its own. Had the Huskies won easily, like they did two weeks ago against South Florida, we’d be saying, ‘oh, big deal, it’s South Florida.’

But to come from behind the way they did, it gave the game a lot more meaning, much more of an emotional lift going into the Cincinnati rematch. One of those intangibles.

Bottom line is, whatever UConn’s shortcomings, this is a mentally tough team with good leadership. Sometimes the other team is better, or shoots better, but “the size of the fight in the dog,” as the saying goes, is there. Here’s the game story for the Thursday Courant.

Kevin Ollie was fired up about this win, as emotional as he’s been all year. Here’s his complete take:


We found something inside ourselves. … We played together. We got a spark from everybody. We were down nine, we could have folded our tent. Then we went on an 18-0 Continue reading

UConn at Temple: Setting Things Up In Philly

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball

PHILADELPHIA – Looking live at the Liacouras Center, a very nice, 17-year-old basketball facility on the Temple campus. UConn is playing here for the first time in about 25 minutes, in an American Athletic Conference road game.

Looks like the Huskies will be intact for this game. Omar Calhoun, who missed two games with a concussion, practiced this week and was out shooting with his teammates before. So he appears good to go.

Anticipating the same starting lineup the Huskies have been using – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah, Amida Brimah. Will be interesting to see if Phil Nolan, who played well for the Huskies against Memphis, gets “starter minutes” again.

Boatright didn’t play in the Huskies’ 90-66 win over Temple a month ago, and Temple coach Fran Dunphy knows he has to contend with all of UConn’s parts tonight.

Anthony Lee, Temple’s best rebounder, has missed the last couple of games with a knee injury, but Continue reading

UConn 86, Memphis 81 (OT): Wrapping Things Up At XL …

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, Kevin Ollie, Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

HARTFORD – Great college basketball game. Really, the AAC can produce them.

The top five teams in the conference, all of which are ranked, are enough to make this first year of the new conference rather interesting. It will take time for rivalries to develop, and take time for some of the programs now at the bottom to build up.

And, let’s face it, UConn doesn’t really want to hang around long enough for that to happen. … But if you live in the moment, enjoy the moment, these two UConn-Memphis games have been pretty good. UConn-Cincinnati was ugly, but good. Cincy and SMU are still to come to Connecticut, so those should be good games, too. This was the first sellout at XL in two years, BTW.

For UConn, it was a great win. The Huskies will stay in the rankings now, should move up several spots and are now just about assured to be in the NCAA Tournament.  They’re clawing their way back up the league standings now, tying Memphis now. A second-place finish seems do-able now, and if Cincinnati fades, who knows?

All in all, a good day for UConn. Here’s some Kevin Ollie:

“The stat sheet is not pretty, but I’ll take a win any day. They stayed in the middle of the ring.  We didn’t knock Memphis out until the end of the game, but we kept throwing body blows, body blows, body blows.  Finally in overtime we got that lead and we didn’t relinquish it.”

They outrebounded us, they shot 55 percent., but we got to the free throw line, we kept putting pressure on them, defensively, and when we needed stops, we got ‘em. I just tip my hat off Ryan, to Shabazz and everybody. They kept grinding, it was a great game for those two and a great game collectively. What we did, we stayed in the game at the free throw line, and we stayed in the game with turnovers, we had six turnovers and they had 18. And that was the game.

It was a Connecticut win. It wasn’t the prettiest game on our end, but at the end of the day, we found a way. That’s why I love this team. They may be small, or whatever you want to write, but you can’t measure their heart. They got the greatest heart ever. I’m very proud of them.

The crowd was absolutely great. When we were down, they just willed us. That’s what we Continue reading

UConn 80, Houston 43: Wrapping Things Up at Gampel

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, AP Top 25, DeAndre Daniels, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball, Uncategorized

STORRS – Tell you what, these 9 p.m. starts take years off a old newspaper guy’s life, but, hey, that’s my problem … Here are some notes, quotes, thoughts in the wake of UConn’s 80-43 win over Houston.

Kevin Ollie and the players said it wasn’t a “revenge” game. But it was certainly a “statement game.” UConn came out with fire in its eyes and just kept pouring it on. Actually, going back to New Year’s Eve, when Houston fell behind by 21 and lost by four, the Huskies have outscored the Cougars by 54 points  over a span of about 65 minutes.

In this game, UConn could have gone scoreless in the second half and still won by eight. That’s really all you need to know, but we’ll tell you more …

Rebounding. UConn had a 55-40 edge. It’s their most ever under Ollie, and they had 19 offensive rebounds. They have outrebounded six of their last seven opponents, and they are 11-0 when outrebounding.

The Huskies young bigs, Amida Brimah, Phil Nolan and Kentan Facey, look like different players than a few weeks ago. Shabazz Napier gave his fellow senior, Tyler Olander, a shout out:

“… Big  guys usually progress slower. But one of the reason the big guys have been progressing faster, of course t here’s the coaches, but Tyler Olander has been doing a great job. He understands his role. He’s not going to be the guy who is disappointed and sits back because he’s not playing. He’s a senior, he started the national championship game as a freshman, but he’s not that type of person. He wants to push them. He pushes them in practice and during the game he’ll talk to them and let them know certain things, aspects of the game they might not know. Phil played well, Amida played well, Kentan came in and played well, it shows you how much work they’re putting in on their craft.”

Napier, by the way, is going back to Charlestown High, where they are retiring a jersey for him. He began his high school career there. He passed Jeff Adrien for 14th place in scoring in UConn  history, getting his total to 1,614.

Kevin Ollie’s take:

“This was a great game by us. A team effort. We came out and we played right out of the gate. I thought the key was,  the ace of spades for me, was TaShawn Thomas. And to hold him to four points and six rebounds, that’s just a great job by Amida, and then Phil came in and gave us a lift on the offensive and defensive end. I thought it was just a complete game by us.

Everybody stepped up in DeAndre’s absence and I’m just very, very proud of this team. Now we’ve got a week off and we’re going to go down to play the best team in the American Conference, Cincinnati.

We’re on our way. We’re trending the right way, rebounding, defense, everything is Continue reading

UConn 82, Rutgers 71: Wrapping Things Up From The RAC

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball



PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Cold, icy night in Jersey, but the Huskies enjoyed a warm, fuzzy ride home. This was a game that could have gotten away – at Rutgers, big crowd. Conference wins on the road are never easy, and UConn did a good job absorbing the Rutgers’ run, steadying the ship and closing the game out.

Shabazz, Shabazz, Shabazz … another one of those sluggish first halves, explosive second halves. “The feel of the game changes at that point,” Niels Giffey said. “And you know he’s just taking it over.”

That kind of game for Napier and the Huskies. … There may be better players, but it would be hard to imagine a more valuable player on this level right now. Great players do what he did tonight, and good teams find ways to win games like this.

Kudos to DeAndre Daniels well deserved. Who thought, when you saw him helped off the court, that he’d be back? His presence in the second half meant something.

Terrence Samuel played five minutes, but had a key play in the game. Kevin Ollie’s confidence in him may be growing now.

The inside game was there: Amida Brimah, especially in the first half, and Phil Nolan. That’s becoming more consistent in conference play.

Now UConn has to start piling up these wins against the soft bottom of the conference – Houston next.

Here is the main game story for the Sunday Courant.

 Here’s Kevin Ollie’s take:



Today’s game was a great game for everybody that played, and how we did it in the second half was remarkable – holding them down to 32 percent , I think it changed the game. I think the last 8:58 we held them to one basket, which is amazing.

We outrebounded a team again. We just gutted it out. ‘Bazz was pretty amazing that second half, scoring 20 points, but it took a team effort. Ryan [Boatright] got a great offensive rebound, Terrence [Samuel]  came in and got a wonderful three-point play when there was a little turbulence on the plane and settled us down.

Phillip [Nolan] and Amida [Brimah] played great down low. Phil, you look on the stat sheet you’re not going to see a lot of numbers, but his defensive presence – being up on pick and rolls, Amida in the first half giving us those second chance points,  that was great.

Any time as a coach you look at the stat sheet and you see points in the paint, 34-12, that means the team played aggressive, played assertive, they out-willed their opponent. That’s what they did tonight.

Rutgers is getting this thing turned around. I‘ve got so much admiration for coach Eddie Jordan. I I know he’s going to do a great job. … Maybe the last time we’ll be playing in the RAC and it’s good to come out with a win.

I was very surprised DeAndre [Daniels] was able to come back. It was a high ankle Continue reading