In September 2012, the Kevin Ollie era at UConn began – with a short leash. As Hall of Fame veteran coach Jim Calhoun retired, Ollie – a former UConn and NBA player – was hired on a one-year trial basis. The rest, as they say, is history.
But when it began, the view was far from unanimous that UConn had made the right choice. The sports blog SB Nation posted a day one poll, and 30 percent of the respondents expressed the view that his selection was either a mistake, or that a national search for a new coach should still be pursued. And NBC Sports website said this: “Asking Ollie to win at the same level as Calhoun is incredibly unfair.”
Some criticized UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel for putting Ollie in a tough position – especially in recruiting - uncertain if he’d be coaching for more than a single season. Manuel, in November 2012, told the New York Times: “I understand the angst that a recruit would have. What I’ve said to them is we’re going to make a decision for UConn that we believe and I believe keeps us winning Big East championships and competing for national championships.”
Two months later, in December 2012, Ollie was given a new contract that runs through the end of the 2017-18 season. The deal, the Associated Press reported at the time, is worth just under $7 million and began on Jan. 1, 2013. Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, was his former coach's hand-picked successor, the AP reported. He had become an assistant coach at UConn in 2010, after 13 years playing for 11 different teams in the NBA.
That season – one in which UConn was banned from NCAA tournament play due to poor academic performance in previous seasons – some player-athletes departed the scene. It’s doubtful that Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond, who entered the NBA draft, or Alex Oriachi, Michael Bradley and Roscoe Smith, who transferred, thought they were walking away from a National Championship team.
The tenacious and confident Ollie, 52-18 as UConn’s head coach over the past 18 months, said simply after winning the 2014 NCAA Championship game, “we did it the right way.”