KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Good morning, folks. It’s afternoon here in Germany, the Huskies are on their way home after that remarkable game at Ramstein Air Base last night.
Let’s review THE storyline:
After the game, Tom Izzo joined the growing list of veteran coaches who think Kevin Ollie’s one-year contract is a bad idea, telling a group of reporters that UConn’s hard-nosed play “was what he was all about as a player, and he did a hell of a job as coach. And he deserves a lot more than a one-year contract.”
Ollie, being Kevin Ollie, has said nothing that sounds like complaining, which is the wise thing on his part. There is no doubt that it makes recruiting more difficult, almost impossible to land kids who want to committ this month. When you think about it, it is very unselfish on his part to put so much energy into recruiting – especially into Classes of 2014 and 15 – as he has when, it appears, his future depends on what he does with the team he has. But he promised to coach as if he were going to be at UConn long term and he is doing that. It should be noted that UConn’s tightening admissions standards are also making recruiting trickier, another issue for another day.
Nevertheless, Ollie took a major step toward making it a moot point. With this stunning upset over Michigan State, Ollie showed that he can pull a team together, hold it together, make use of the talents of his staff, implement a plan and get his players to understand it and execute it, and coach a game. I asked Jim Calhoun what he liked about Kevin’s handling of the game. From a strategic standpoint, he loved Ollie’s using four guards down the stretch. From a bigger-picture, he loved the way UConn responded when they went cold shooting and Michigan erased their 16-point lead. Others around the team were impressed by the way Ollie’s players came out right away and established what they wanted to do, forcing Izzo to adjust his lineup
The most important man to impress was AD Warde Manuel, who was watching from right behind Ollie and the players. Manuel was into the game, standing and cheering as the Huskies built their big lead, coming over with big smiles to hug Calhoun and Ollie afterward. “I was impressed,” Manuel told ESPN’s Andy Katz. “It was an unbelievable debut as a head coach.
Two things here: Manuel didn’t bring the paperwork for an extension on the plane with him. He is not likely to do a 180 over one game. But he does clearly like Kevin Ollie, this I believe from my several conversations with him, and when he has seen enough he will make his move. It is just going to take patience on Ollie’s part, something he has in strong supply. The decision will be made the AD’s way, on his timetable.