Notes, Quotes: Kevin Ollie, Geno Auriemma Join Impressive Crowd at Jimmy V Dinner

by Categorized: George Blaney, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

NEW YORK – With the glimmering Hudson River in the background, Kevin Ollie joined a group of top-echelon head coaches at the Jimmy V Classic dinner at Chelsea Pier on Wednesday.

My story will be on the website and in the Thursday Courant (click here), but here are a few notes, quotes and highlights of the pre-dinner press availability….

Jim Calhoun, in describing his new role around UConn “without a whistle” has often mentioned the model of John Thompson’s continued presence at Georgetown, where  his son, John Thompson III, is head coach.  Since retiring, Calhoun has talked about the need to “manage his shadow.”

They seem to have found a comfort zone at Georgetown.

“My dad’s role is that he is my dad,” Thompson III said. “As you know, he has an opinion about everything, about my job, and your job. He’s a presence around our program, he’s at games. Is he part of making game plans? No. Is he in on film sessions? No. Will he come up to me after practice and say, ‘why the hell did you do that?’ Yes.”


With the first practice on Saturday, Ollie said center Tyler Olander, who sprained his ankle in early September, is now fully recovered. He hopes Shabazz Napier, who had foot surgery in September, will be “85 percent” on Saturday. Napier has been doing light work, and Ollie said they will have to monitor him carefully.


No surprise, but I thought Ollie had the quote of the night:  “You can make a suit 15 different ways out of the same material. Coach [Calhoun] and I are made out of the same material.”


Ollie and Geno Auriemma have had a few conversations about the transition. “Words of wisdom just flow from his tongue,” Ollie said.

Auriemma: “Kevin and I talked, and I told him a lot of the things I went through my first year, with UConn being my first head coaching job. And I expect he’ll go through a lot of the same things. Your first year as a head coach, everything that comes up, you think you can fix it. Someone has a question about the budget? ‘I got it.’ About recruiting? ‘I got it.’ About academics? ‘I got it.’ … Until you realize there is only so much you can do, and you have to decide what things are important enough for you to do yourself, and what you need to have your staff do. As you get more experience and more confidence, you learn how to do that. Kevin has good people around him.”


Mike Gottfried of NC State, which will be the Huskies’ opponent on Dec. 4, recalled his first head coaching job at Murray State. “I left UCLA after we had won the championship [in 1995] and I woke up in Murray, Ky., and said, ‘what the heck did I do?'”

Though John Wooden had been retired many years before Gottfried got to UCLA, and Jimmy V had been gone many years before he got to NC State, he knows the aura of great coaches remains long after they are gone.

“And you have to embrace that,” Gottfried said. “That’s what makes this job great. Only a few places in the country have that.”


Ollie didn’t offer a specific reason he decided to make Glen Miller his associate head coach, he said he just felt it was the best alignment. “I have a comfort level with Glen,” he said, “and I have a comfort level with George [Blaney]. The main thing is, I wanted to keep the team together.”

As announced last week, Miller is the associate head coach, Blaney and Karl Hobbs are full assistants, Kevin Freeman is director of basketball operations. 

We have a package of stories and graphics on our main sports page advancing First Night. … Talk to you tomorrow from The Husky Run.


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