Connecticut fans were given needless anxiety this month over unsubstantiated reports that Kevin Ollie would leave UConn for a coaching job with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ollie’s name was proposed by SNY and ESPN, among others in the media, as someone who would be “seriously considered” by the Thunder when, as expected, it fired its coach. On April 22nd the firing of Scott Brooks took place, despite support from several of the players.
That’s when the Ollie supporters got really nervous.
Even though Kevin said he would not be interested, those who wanted him to stay at UConn weren’t sure he would resist temptation, if it was dangled in front of him. People have been known to change their minds, especially if they are given an offer that would be hard to refuse.
Starting today, April 30th, the crisis is officially over. Billy Donovan, who coached Florida to two NCAA championships and four Final Four appearances in 19 seasons, resigned as the Gators’ coach and took the position with the Thunder, who this season missed the NBA playoffs for the first time in five years.
For a few weeks the state’s media had a field day with the non-story of Ollie leaving for greener pastures. First it bombarded us with reports that Kevin might leave, then did an about face and issued more articles saying the opposite. The stories canceled each other out. The result was that the media got two stories when there really was no story at all. It turned out to be much ado about nothing.
Why such hysteria about something that never got off the ground? Ollie did not interview for the job. The Thunder never said he was a candidate. Yet the stories kept coming.
It is an old ploy in the media, especially when things are slow on the news front, to claim something based on that so-called “unnamed source,” then follow up with a denial.
That’s how advertising dollars are generated and how the public is taken for a ride.
Probably the only reason the non-story was taken seriously by some was that if Ollie was ever going to leave Storrs, this would be as good a time as any. The Huskies, who won the national championship in 2014, did not even get into March Madness this year, finishing with a 20-15 record, They settled for the NIT, and were promptly taken out by Arizona State in the opening game on their home court, and with their best player sitting on the bench recovering from an injury. It was a sad ending to the season.
Ollie is not Krzyzewski, but who is?
Amid the furor, Ollie officially “withdrew” his name from consideration, even though there was nothing to indicate he was actually ever considered in the first place.
Even the great Mike Krzyzewski has had to answer talk of going to the pros. But at least there were actual offers on the table for Coach K. “There were three serious times where I almost left to go to the pros,” he revealed to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The legendary Duke coach explained that one was “when Dave Gavitt took over the Celtics (1990), another was with the Trailblazers (1994), and the one that I took to a really far level was the Lakers situation (2004).”
Krzyzewski then decided “I just could not give up what I’ve done and gotten at Duke. It just wasn’t worth it.” Very few coaches could be as secure and successful as Krzyzewski to turn down the pros, and even he said he “almost” did.
So why were UConn fans worried?
It is not at all unheard of in the coaching fraternity and in the business world in general, for someone, who is the subject of speculation, to deny interest in a new position, and then end up taking it.
Saying he had no plans to pursue other opportunities did not mean he still could not make such plans if he were to be tendered an offer attractive enough financially. People have been known to change their minds every day in the business world. Contracts are made to be broken, as they say, and everything has a price.
So although the non-story supposedly ended when Kevin denied he would be leaving, it really wasn’t until today that there can be closure.
There is now a new coach of the Oklahoma Thunder. His name is not Kevin Ollie. UConn cannot be KO’d by KO.