It’s One Game, But It Could Lead To More Than One Year For Kevin Ollie

by Categorized: Kevin Ollie, UConn men's basketball

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.”

Larry Brown expressed similar sentiments to me back in September, and Rick Pitino did the same on Big East Media Day. Probably a few other examples out there, too.

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

Here is your boxscore.

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.




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16 thoughts on “It’s One Game, But It Could Lead To More Than One Year For Kevin Ollie

  1. Publicus

    I read your longer story about Ollie and watched yesterday’s game, and it only made me angrier about the seven month contract that has in essence hamstrung him (recruits don’t know if he’ll be here next year, etc.). I think it is ironic that Warde Manuel takes the position that no actual head coaching experience is his reason for not giving Ollie a real head coaching contract. I felt since the day he was hired that Manuel does not have any experience to warrant his hiring as AD of a big time division one athletic department. His only AD experience was at Buffalo, arguably the worst division one sports school in the country – a joke program. Do his years of losing records in major sports there warrant being made the AD at UConn? Herbst must have been drunk or smoking weed when she hired Manuel.

    Given his thin-ice experience, I think it is audacious for Manuel to disrespect Ollie and disrespect Calhoun, a hall of fame coach, and several iconic college and NBA coaches who all say Ollie has significant experience and deserves a long term contract.

    I think it would be more just to fire Manuel and bring in an AD who would be able to recognize Ollie’s worth and do a good job at an athletic program that should have a big time AD.

    1. Steve

      Warde Manuel hired Turner Gill at Buffalo and made them relevant for possibly the first time in their history. Much like Turner Gill’s stock rising so did Warde’s by showing what he can do with a nothing school

      1. Publicus


        You called Ollie an uncle tom, and were called out about that about a month ago to answer for that. You ran away and hid since then. You have no place in this forum. You are a reprehensible cheap shot artist and a coward. What you have to say has no credibility.

        1. Steve

          This is now the second time you have said that I am the Steve that made those comments. I apologize for using my real name and not a handle when commenting, but you got the wrong guy. But while we’re at it, I find it very hypocritical that you question Warde’s hiring due to “lack of experience” but yet you find it wrong Ollie wasn’t given a long term contract for that exact reason. I fully believe in Ollie and after last night think he should be given a long term contract ASAP, but I also agree with not initial offering him one.

          1. Publicus

            Your logic is nonsensical. It appears that you are unable to follow or articulate a coherent thought.

          2. Steve

            “I felt since the day he was hired that Manuel does not have any experience to warrant his hiring as AD of a big time division one athletic department.” exact quote from you. My logic, and I would say anyone else’s with even middle school level education, would see that you are battling for Ollie long term for the exact same credentials you are battling against Warde for. But wait, my name is Steve, we’re all racists….

        2. Steve

          I am accused of being a racist for having a common name, am told I am nonsensical, and unable to articulate a coherent thought, all because I defend the hiring of the AD in place, and I am seen as a 5 year old, this is hilarious.

  2. revkev

    Actually I thought that Manuel was a good hire. What we don’t know here is how much pressure he had from other places within the UConn organization to look outside for a head coach. Perhaps a one year contract was the best he could do in order to nail Kevin Ollie down and then let what he felt Ollie could do put the nay sayers to bed. Regardless I have little doubt from what I’ve seen that Kevin Ollie deserves some sort of multi year contract in keeping with his experience and the norm for new coaches at the upper level of DI hoops. I hope and pray that he won’t coach too long because this guy has the skill set to do remarkable things – politics? the ministry? Something where he can impact even more lives than he can as a hoops coach. Whatever he does I wish him all the best. UConn would be wise to hit itself to his wagon now.

  3. Jeff

    Could not help but notice last night immediately following the men’s team victory over Michigan St. that Warde Manual was walking around with a stupid looking grin on his face. As if Manual had come up with the game plan, did the “x’s and o’s”, motivated the players and substituted the players in and out of the game himself which led to the Huskies’ upset. No, it was thanks to Jim Calhoun’s support and insistence that Kevin Ollie, (who did everything above in his coaching duties) be promoted to be his successor.

    Now, it is absolutely necessary that Manual do the right thing: Extend a multi-year contract offer to Kevin Ollie to be the men’s coach at UConn. This 7 month contract is a slap in the face to what Ollie has already accomplished in PROVING that he is more than qualified to be Calhoun’s successor!

    1. TZToronto

      While I am impressed by KO’s handling of the team vs. MSU, I’m not jumping on the long-term bandwagon just yet. Let’s see how well he can motivate his players against teams UConn is supposed to beat, not just teams against which UConn is the underdog. I was impressed with what KO did down the stretch last night, though. Last years’ team, I think, would have lost the game, but this team wanted to win badly. That says something about how these players feel about Ollie. The regular season is, after all, is UConn’s tournament this season along with being Ollie’s big chance. So far he’s doing all the right things. I especially like the way the Huskies weren’t settling for the ill-advised 3 with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. The players were looking for opportunities, not just dribbling out the clock. I hope that KO has the players practicing more side-to-side ball movement because MSU was able, after the first 10 minutes or so, to set their defense and make it more difficult for UConn to penetrate. Definitely a very good start for KO and his Huskies!

  4. Perry Mason

    Dom, in addition to the coaches (Izzo, Pitino, etc.) who have spoken out in support of hiring Ollie to a long term deal, Jay Bilas was also pretty critical of the 7 month contract on the telecast. He basically said that, having seen Ollie in practice and having met him in person, it was obvious he’s the right man for the job.

    The experience thing kind of dumbfounds me. Football is case in point. We made a hire there that was almost solely based on “experience”, and look where it’s gotten us. I know Warde didn’t make that hire, but you’d think he might view it as a cautionary tale.

    One final thing Warde should consider is that if Ollie continues to find success like he did last night, he’s only going to become more expensive. The balance of power is interesting here… Ollie has made it clear that he only wants to coach at Connecticut, taking away a good deal of leverage (we can be fairly certain he’s not gonna walk unless the offer is really, truly insulting). On the other hand, fans, analysts, players, EVERYONE loves him. The fan base will collectively lose it if it looks like he isn’t given a fair shake. One suggestion that someone made (may have been you) that I kind of liked, was to sign him to a normal contract but with a really low buyout provision, mitigating the long term risk if things go south.

    Also, what did I say in the chat? STEALS AND PRESSURE BABY! Great game, good day to be a Husky.

    1. TZToronto

      There are three things re: a long-term contract. First, this is UConn, a plum coaching job, maybe the best “available” in the country. The Huskies’ coach MUST be paid a competitive salary. Second, a low buyout needs to be accompanied by an incremental increase based on Ollie’s success. So first, pay him well. Then show appreciation for success by paying more every year. Finally, there are a few players who, if Ollie isn’t retained, will have played for three coaches in four years. That is not a good advertisement for UConn as far as recruits go. Not only that but there will be several players (at least Napier, Olander, Giffey, and maybe Wolf) who might be in a position to leave UConn for another team and be able to play immediately, as Oriakhi did–if UConn hires someone other than Ollie for 2013-14. So instead of having an experienced potential Final Four team next season, UConn could be condemned to basketball obscurity for years to come if Ollie is not given the long-term contract. I think that as long as Ollie doesn’t crash and burn (he won’t), he’ll get the contract–and it will be a good one.

  5. Jim

    Why not at least give KO a 3 year contract so that he can recruit (we are losing kids due to this uncertainty)and if you don’t like what he’s doing then eat the contract which happens all the time? SIGN KO NOW!

  6. Rabid Husky

    Anyone who questions Kevin Ollie’s ‘lack’ of experience only needs to survey the FOUR Hall of Fame coaches he played for—Jim Calhoun, Chuck Daly, Don Nelson and Larry Brown, who respected Ollie so much he referred to him as an unofficial ‘player-coach’.

    One last thing—the Cleveland Cavaliers thought so much of Ollie they signed him to mentor a rookie by the name of LABRON JAMES!

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