ARLINGTON, Texas – The Huskies were out on the floor for an hour, and met the reporters and, once again, the talking is done now. All that’s left is the game.
It’s going to be a uphill struggle for UConn, no two ways about that. Can they win? Of course, they’ve beaten Florida once before.
The psychology of this rematch tilts a little to UConn, IMO, for one very simple reason: they are still the underdogs. Florida may have lost in Storrs four months ago, but they are No. 1, they have the 30-game winning streak. The pressure would be on them, not UConn. And the vibes around the Huskies are still very good.
Here is some Kevin Ollie at the podium, as transcribed by the folks at ASAP Sports. He starts with a new Ollie-ism:
“We look at it as you can be a pro or you can be a professional. A pro just does it in convenient times. A professional does it in inconvenient times and convenient times. You do it over and over again, and it becomes habit. That’s what I try to put on my team each and every day, to get better at something. If we can do that, we’ll get better and we’ll win games and we’ll win together. I learned that from George Karl. I learned that from Larry Brown, of course Larry Brown, because he’s a perfectionist. He wants you to do certain things the right way, and especially the things you can control, which is your attitude and the way you show up each and every day. I learned that from him because without him I wouldn’t be here.
Just the toughness that you got to show each and every day. Hopefully it feeds over into my coaching staff.”
“Having this ability to coach this program has been great. I don’t look at it like a lot of people look at it, that I’m replacing Coach Calhoun. Coach Calhoun is still beside me. He’s in front of me. He’s behind me. I’ve locked arms with coach because what he’s put inside of me and his belief system in me is something I’m going to always have great gratitude about.
“Of course this is my program now, and I have to do certain things that’s according to my core values, of course. But just going forward, just marching and believing in the program. I think that’s what gets us through.
“But Coach Calhoun has done a great job. My story and filling his shoes, I can never fill Coach Calhoun’s shoes. I can never build a program to a perineal Top?10 program each and every year. This program has already been built. But I want us to sustain it. I want to get it to another level. That another level is not about winning championships, it’s about creating great young men so they can go out there in their community after they leave the Storrs campus and be ambassadors of their family, of their name and also this great university.
“So that’s what I believe in. It’s a special feeling being up here and being in the Final Four. But like I said, I’m not chasing championships. I want championships to chase me. I want to do it the right way, and that’s providing my student?athletes with a great platform for them to succeed each and every day. ”
“I had a great opportunity to see [Calhoun] work in 2011, which was not that far away. It was a couple years ago. So, of course, it’s a different venue. It’s a different stage. I’m in that head coaching seat. But I seen him and I worked closely with him. I see the ups and downs. I see how he deals with problems that arises and I learned a lot from him.
In 2011, how he dealt with the team, how he kept it simple, and that’s the main thing. You want to make it simple as possible for our guys to understand the game plan, execute it, and go out there and play unselfish basketball. I seen him do that to a T in 2011.
A lot of people wasn’t expecting us to make that great run and win 11 in a row. A lot of people not expecting us to be here and we are here. A lot of people picked against us, and we’re still here.
That’s the great thing about this program, because it’s not about one person, not about Ray Allen, Donyell. It’s about a collective group of guys that made this program successful. If we keep believing in that, UConn will live longer than any player, because that’s a tradition that we have built over the years. It’s about our program. “
“I can go through my coaching staff, two of my coaches coached me. Glen Miller coached me my freshman year, my sophomore year when I didn’t know anything. I’m just walking around as a freshman and trying to find my way, and Coach Calhoun’s screaming at me and I didn’t understand what he was saying, and I’m very glad Glen was there. Now he’s on my staff.
“Coach [Karl] Hobbs came in after Glen left and he coached me my junior and senior year. That’s when I really started taking off as a point guard and really establishing myself as a basketball player and a point guard. I loved those guys to death. To see them on my staff now, and then couple that with the younger coaches that I got on my staff, two of the guys played on our 1999 National Championship team.
So my coaching staff, I tell them they’re the best in America because they young, but they’re all UConn guys. They all graduated. They all got their degrees from UConn. It’s a beautiful synergy that we have because we all have that common denominator that we played for UConn. We know what it takes to put that jersey on and the pride that we are playing for each and every night.”
“[If the assistant coaching position wasn't open] I would have probably been with the Thunder, because I had an opportunity to stay with the Thunder in different capacities. Me and Sam Presti is great friends and he wanted me to come back and be a coach or be in the front office with him.
I could have still played because I’m not a free agent that’s going to get signed July 1st. So I usually get signed probably in September right before training camp. So I didn’t have that luxury to see what was the free agent market.
So I decided to just go back to UConn. They had a spot open even before the season was over with. That spot was open, and I decided to many could back. I wanted to be closer to my family. The last five years of my NBA career, my family stayed in Glastonbury, Connecticut, while I was at Oklahoma City, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philly 76ers, so I wanted to be close to them.
It’s nothing like coming back home and being at University of Connecticut and everybody say, How do you recruit? It’s like recruiting is natural for me because I’m not making nothing up or anything, this is what I believe in. I said I sat in those same seats, I went to the same classes that you’re going to, and it’s just a part of me. I love the university and I want to be here for a long time.”
“[Last year's team was] fighting against all odds when we were banned last year, and they didn’t have anything to do with the ban. They wasn’t there at that time. Then we had a lot of odds against us, and like I said yesterday, we had a lot of problems that other people seen, but we seen possibilities that we can get better from this. We’re going to make sure no other program, no other player in the UConn program will ever have to go through this again.
They just buckled down and they dug their heels in, not only on the basketball court. I’m more proud of them guys with the APR that they had. They had a thousand APR. We have five guys on the dean’s list. With all them distractions we had, that stuff for a student?athlete, and I’m more proud of that. Forget the 20 wins. I really don’t care about that first one. I don’t really care about that. I care about the way they performed on the classroom, which was remarkable, because they said, We’re not going to have another senior, another freshman, another sophomore, another junior go through what we went through. We’re going to be barrier breakers and that’s what they were.”
“Kasey [Hill], with his speed, his ability to make plays, Scottie [Wilbekin] does the same thing, but it gives them an opportunity, kind of like us, where we can play 2?point guards at the same time. They didn’t have that option when they played us last time.
I don’t think I had the option of Terrence Samuel either, because he wasn’t playing a lot. Now I can put three point guards out there.
So it’s a different game. That was four months ago. We’re a different team. I’m a different coach. Billy Donovan’s definitely got better understanding his team and what it takes for his team to win. So it’s going to be a whole different game.
But Kasey Hill is a wonderful player.
Now they got Chris Walker back in the rotation, which they didn’t have before. It’s going to be a challenge for us. We have to play our A?game. I’ve been telling the guys we don’t have a B? or C?game. We just got an A?game and that’s what we got to bring each and every night when you step out on the floor and play in the NCAA tournament.”
Oh, and you knew this was coming. The LA Times’ Eric Pincus thinks Ollie would be a great choice to coach the Lakers.
Is UConn a one-man team? Billy Donovan doesn’t think so, and Florida is not approaching the game that way. Here is the main advance for the Saturday Courant.
And our capsule look at the matchup.
Ryan Boatright says playing in the NBA is his dream, but “patience is a virtue .. a lot of guys leave too early and get stuck in Europe or the D-League.” Does that sound like he’s leaning toward coming back to play a senior season at UConn? Does to me, and it would be a good move on his part, IMO. Boat is the lead top of the Final Four notebook, going up soon on our main website, along with Jeff Jacobs on “the shot” and what it all means, and Sara Grant working the crowd scene around the stadium, and all kinds of pics from Rich Messina and Steve Dunn, and videos..