(WTNH)–Kevin Ollie has done a terrific job at UConn. He’s kept the program afloat in the face of several challenges–conference realignment, replacing the legendary Jim Calhoun and losing the core of a national championship team.
He’s improved the Huskies’ defense, made his team one of the nation’s best at the free throw line, and recruited with the big boys (UConn has the No. 3 class in the country coming to Storrs this fall).
So, it’s no wonder that NBA teams are interested in his services. On Monday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that Ollie, along with college coaches like Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jay Wright–the usual suspects, are among a list of names the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in pursuing after firing head coach Byron Scott over the weekend.
KO’s name has been surfacing and resurfacing in connection with these jobs–you’ll remember last year when the Oklahoma City Thunder came calling–but so far he’s turned them all down, saying he loves UConn and wants to be at the school for a long time.
Ollie reportedly told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday that he hasn’t been contacted by the Lakers, and that he will “always listen if called,” but that it would take something “very special” to pull him away from Storrs.
The 43-year-old has faced more turmoil than he likely expected over the past couple of years, inheriting teams that appeared to have Top-25 talent in a watered-down league and coming within a miraculous 60-foot prayer of ending up in the NIT both seasons.
But he seems happy and empowered in his current role, carrying the mantle for one of the most successful programs in the nation; a program he helped build as a player.
Yes, Kevin Ollie is very well-respected in the NBA and has connections with several organizations, and friendships with players like Kevin Durant. But aside from maybe a little more money (he can make $3 million per year with incentives at UConn), and the chance to coach in the pros, there’s not really a lot of incentive to make the jump–especially not if you’re talking job security.
On Husky Day at the state Capitol on April 13, Ollie was asked about the difference between coaching in college versus the NBA:
“You have opportunity to really invest in young kids’ lives,” he said, according to the Hartford Courant. “To be in the trenches with student-athletes and molding them as great young men. That’s the challenge, but it’s the reward, too, and I think [coaches] look at that reward as something they want to do. You get a better opportunity to do that here in college than at the pro level.”
There’s no reason not to take Ollie at his word that he wants to stay at UConn.
So while his name keeps resurfacing when NBA jobs come up, Huskies fans should be able to breathe deep.
Kevin Ollie isn’t going anywhere.
At least, not yet.