Kevin Ollie's first season as UConn's basketball coach may be over, but people are still talking about what he was able to accomplish in the face of some incredible odds.
A quick refresher for those of you just back from the moon: NCAA sanctions made the Huskies ineligible for postseason play in 2013, four key contributors left last spring for either the NBA or to transfer and Jim Calhoun retired. Through it all, Ollie and his team persevered and by the time it was over, UConn had won 20 games. It was arguably one of the most impressive coaching jobs of the year. You even might say it was Coach of the Year-worthy. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what ESPN studio analyst and former college coach Seth Greenberg suggested recently.
The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore was in Bristol Thursday and Greenberg couldn't have been more effusive of Ollie's rookie performance.
“There’s no manual for the situation he came in to,” Greenberg told Amore. “He’s replacing a legend [Jim Calhoun], and he has the legend sitting there every game. He handled it with so much grace.
“… I watched a practice. He didn’t run a good practice, he ran a great practice, the attention to detail. But it’s not just the X’s and O’s, it’s how hard you get the kids to play for you. No postseason to play for, and they played hard for him all the way through, they played for pride in the university because they saw his pride in the university. He was able to get his love, his passion, his pride across to them.
“What stood out for me was after they beat Syracuse, and he was being interviewed, and Shabazz Napier was next to him, and [Ryan] Boatright, I think, and then the whole team was there, standing behind their coach. That was vivid to me. Vivid. As a coach, that’s what you want is for your team to be behind you. I don’t think I’d ever seen that before in a regular season game. But he has a love affair with UConn, and everyone who plays for him is going to have a love affair.
“And don’t forget, he had a staff of [former] head coaches, and yet HE was the head coach. That’s not easy, either. Impressive. … Impressive.”
Whether that translates into Coach of the Year consideration is another matter, one, we suspect, Ollie couldn't care less about. If we've learned anything this season, it's that team comes first.