The odds were stacked against 13-year NBA veteran Kevin Ollie from the start.
However, after taking over for retired coaching legend Jim Calhoun, Ollie has led his alma mater UConn to a 9-2 start, including an upset of Michigan State on the season’s opening night.
He has thus been rewarded by the Huskies athletic department. In an impromptu news conference called on Saturday, it was announced that the school and Ollie have agreed to a five-year, $7 million contract that will keep him in Hartford at least through the 2017-18 season.
According to ESPN, Ollie will receive a total of $1.2 million in Year 1, with increases going to $1.25 million in 2014-15; $1.3 million in 2015-16; $1.325 million in 2016-17 and $1.34 million in 2017-18.
There have been many obstacles for Ollie, but first and foremost he had to figure out how he was going to approach replacing one of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball.
“I’m not replacing Coach Calhoun,” Ollie said. “He’s here, and I’ll lean on him for a lot of advice. I’m not following in his footsteps. He has his own shoes. I’ve got to create my own path and I can’t waiver from my convictions.
“I’m used to winning around here. That’s why I came here. That’s not going to stop. We will do it well and we will do it right.”
Ollie had been signed to a one-year, $625,00 contract that essentially amounted to a seven month job interview.
But three players had transferred and two more had declared early for the NBA after UConn was officially banned from any postseason play in 2013.
So not only was Ollie following in the footsteps of Calhoun, but he was doing so with zero job security and knowing that five scholarship players had defected in the offseason.
The reason UConn is not playing the Big East Tournament or the NIT or NCAAs is because the team’s grades were so low. Thus, Ollie has had to win games without some of his best players, in the program’s first year without Calhoun in ages, without the prospect of postseason glory (only two years removed from a national championship) and under the prospect of further academic sanctions.
What a mouthful.
However, Ollie has handled absolutely everything with the grace and aplomb expected of a role model and a coach.
For that reason, Ollie should be around for at least the foreseeable future. However, the man of the hour is hoping it is far longer than that.
“It’s a five-year contract, but I’m looking at it like I can be the coach here for 20-25 years,” said Ollie, who has consistently called coaching his alma mater his dream job.
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