If there's one thing Larry Brown knows, it's basketball. The 72-year-old has coached at every level from high school to the NBA to the Olympics and has had success at every stop. Now back in college at SMU, Brown has a history with new UConn coach Kevin Ollie.
The two were together when Ollie played for Brown as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers from 1999-2001. The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore spoke to Brown last Friday to ask him about the man who has replaced Jim Calhoun.
“He’s a great kid, a great teammate, he was great to be around,” Brown told Amore. “He was a mentor to our young players. Like all of the players I coached who had been with Calhoun, he accepted coaching the right way, he allowed you to make him better."
“… Two years ago, he called me. I know he was thinking about going back to Oklahoma City [as a player], and I told him, ‘you know you want to coach eventually. What better opportunity than to go back to your school, and with your coach, who loves you.’ … Two years with [Calhoun], Kevin has all the preparation he needs.”
That turned out to be the right decision. Calhoun didn't hide the fact that he wanted Ollie to succeed him and that may explain why Calhoun waited until September to officially announce his retirement: athletic director Warde Manuel wouldn't have time to conduct a proper coaching search and Ollie would be installed as the coach. That's exactly what happened, although Ollie's contract expires in the spring. Brown spoke to Amore about the setup.
“Not to be a jerk, but I’m not happy about the one-year contract," he said. … "It’s not going to be easy. But Kevin has been in so many situations and he knows how to handle it and I know he can be successful. I hope they realize at Connecticut that they have something special here. Coach Calhoun recognized it.”
Ollie is in a difficult spot; the 2012-13 Huskies were at a disadvantage before Calhoun hung it up; five players left the program in the spring and NCAA sanctions will keep them out of the postseason. If Ollie can overcome those obstacles and UConn outperforms expectations in the coming months, you'd think it would bode well for Ollie's long-term prospects.