STORRS – Kevin Ollie’s contract is always an issue around the UConn men’s basketball team, as it should be. Any other issue tends to be moot until that is settled.
Players, earlier in the year, expressed a desire to help Ollie get the job, but it seems to be settling in that it is beyond their control, according to Shabazz Napier.
“We thought after the Michigan State game he was going to get the job,” Napier said, “and sometimes it seems like it’s not going to happen. We realize that it’s not going to be in our hands, no matter what we do.”
A little later, Napier expanded. “It seems like [Warde Manuel] isn’t going to make his decision based on what we do o n the court, but more on what we do off the court, how we conduct ourselves, what we do in the classroom. I think everybody’s doing great academically.”
Napier, here, is on point. It’s not going to come down to how many games the Huskies win, but how they look getting there. If the fall semester academic results are good, that could weigh heavily in the new coach’s favor.
Meantime, Ollie remains consistent. “I care about because you’d like to have a contract,” he said, “but I’m not losing sleep over it. … These kids are giving me their all. They’re working and playing for me like I’m going to be here forever and I’m doing the same thing.”
Fordham, the opponent on Friday is 2-8. “I’m hoping our players don’t look at their record,” Ollie said. “Because they’re a good team. They’re going to be a good challenge for us.” Fordham missed 6-foot-8 senior Chris Gaston (12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds) for six games with a knee injury, but now he is back.
The Rams have a big front court, and Ollie is concerned that if they control the paint they can control the game. Ollie noted that UConn’s leading rebounder (DeAndre Daniels) is at 4.4 per game. “Just somebody get over 5 per game,” he said. “Baby steps.”
Ollie on Omar Calhoun’s transition. “Maybe [in high school] they ran a lot of plays for him, but in this situation, you’ve got to make your own plays.”
With no classes, Ollie scheduled an early practice. “Just to get them on their feet,” he said.