UConn’s Ollie has little time, but big opportunity
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
STORRS, Conn. – He had just beaten Michigan State in his head coaching debut, been the subject of a two-hour love-fest on ESPN and earned the kind of instant credibility few thought was possible for someone whose contract will expire in April. If there was ever a told-you-so moment at Kevin Ollie’s fingertips, beating Hall of Fame-bound Tom Izzo in front of a primetime national audience was about as good as it could possibly get.
But upon arriving back in Connecticut last weekend, Ollie didn’t march into athletic director WardeManuel’s office and demand an extension or go running to the media to campaign for the job long-term.
Instead, he simply spent a low-key Sunday with his mother and daughter at the UConn women’s game, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider the symbolism of the men’s basketball coach at this school calling a truce on the decades-long feud between the two sides of the Huskies basketball universe.
“I’m a big fan of Geno (Auriemma) and what he’s done for 28, 29 years with his program,” Ollie said. “He’s just a great person. My daughter had a blast. I’m going to bring her to a practice so she can spend some time with the girls.
It’s impossible to know what the next four months holds for Ollie, whether he will gain enough support for Manuel to make him the permanent coach or whether the seemingly impossible circumstances of this UConn season will eventually collapse on him. But give Ollie this much: So far he’s killing them with kindness, and, through two games anyway, winning them over with competence.
“I think what Kevin is trying to do is what every young head coach hopes to do and that is build a community around his team,” said Auriemma, who has seven national titles. “He knows he’s got a tough job ahead of him, and what he’s all about is inclusion. He’s an honest and sincere and hardworking guy who expects a lot out of himself and I’m not surprised that he’s reaching out to a lot of people, not just on campus but … [For more on UConn's Ollie has little time, but big opportunity, click here.]