STORRS, CT- SEPTEMBER 13: Newly named University Of Connecticut basketball coach Kevin Ollie attends a news conference where basketball coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement at a news conference on September 13, 2012 in Storrs, Connecticut. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
The conversations started virtually the moment after Jim Calhoun announced his retirement in September: the university should sign Kevin Ollie to a long-term deal as Calhoun's successor. It would keep things moving along without interruption and after all, Calhoun had hand-picked Ollie for the job. One problem: athletic director Warde Manuel had said for months that this wouldn't be a "coach in waiting" situation, meaning that whomever took over for Calhoun wouldn't be there because of one man.
So Ollie got a deal that expires in the spring and while we wait for the university to decide what to do, the program suffers. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas wasted little time lobbying for Ollie, making a plea during the season opener against Michigan State.
Manuel has spoken highly of Ollie, but he also doesn't sound like he's in a hurry to do anything.
“I think the world of Kevin,” said last month via the New York Times. “I love what I see. But I want to continue to watch him and watch the team. At the appropriate time, I’ll make a decision.”
The problem with that thinking: recruits don't want to hear that "I may or may not have my contract extended at some point in the foreseeable future" from a prospective college coach. Especially when the Rick Pitinos and Jim Boeheims of the world aren't going anywhere.
Not only that, but the university isn't exactly in a leveraged position. With all the upheaval going on in the Big East and beyond, the basketball program is one of UConn's few bargaining chips. If Manuel drags his feet, whose to say the Huskies would be able to land a high-profile coach anyway?
Whatever happens with the Big East and its future, Manuel should do the right thing and get Ollie under contract now. Because while football might be the driving force behind all the conference realignment, basketball is the engine that drives UConn. For better or worse, football is just along for the ride.