April 10, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s not that Kevin Ollie looked uncomfortable sitting on a stool in front of the Connecticut bench. It’s just that he looked a lot more comfortable in a defensive stance exhorting the Huskies in the national championship game.
That’s how he spent the majority of the biggest game of his short college coaching career Monday night, a 60-54 victory over Kentucky. Right on the sideline. In some plays he looked like a sixth Connecticut defender, just wearing a suit and tie.
From 1991-95, he wore a UConn uniform as a standout defender. Then it was off to the NBA for a long career as a role player before he returned to UConn for two years as an assistant. Jim Calhoun hand-picked him as his successor.
Maybe Ollie will start a new trend in college basketball: a longtime NBA player taking over a program. He was in the NBA for 12 seasons changing teams 12 times. Never a star but always wanted. His best scoring season was 8.0 points per game with Seattle in 2002-03.
Players who average 3.8 points per game over 12 seasons usually spend a lot of time on the bench. Ollie did.
“You know what he was doing while he was playing?” Kentucky coach John Calipari asked Sunday. “He was coaching. That’s how he played. He was an unbelievable student of the game.”
Seems he learned pretty well.
In only his second season as head coach he won it all. Steve Fisher is the only coach to win the title in his first season, with Michigan as an interim coach in 1989.
Technically, Ollie did it in his first chance. The Huskies were ineligible for postseason play in 2012-13 over academic issues before he or these players got to Storrs. The players could have transferred. They stayed and won the school’s fourth national championship as a No. 7 seed after finishing tied for third in the American Athletic Conference and entering the tournament with a 26-8 record.
“I told you, a lot of people was picking against us and doubting us, but I told you the last would be the first,” Ollie said. “We are first now. Last year we were last. We couldn’t get in the tournament, but they kept believing. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ollie is far from low key on the sideline, but he seems to be mostly positive in a sport where many have complained that coaches have become too negative.
“Be ready. Please be ready,” he yelled toward Phillip Nolan when a bounce pass went through his hands.
“You got to pass,” he yelled at DeAndre Daniels.
“You have to get on the floor,” he yelled at Nolan and Neils Giffey when they came off the court after failing to get a loose ball.
He uses broad gestures to get his point across.
He walked toward Lasan Kromah after he failed to box out and it resulted in a dunk and 3-point play for Kentucky with 3:47 to play. He didn’t say a word. He had his arms extended, the universal signal for “What?” Kromah had no answer as he walked by and Ollie gave him a pat as he walked by.
But there were times he sounded like the coaches who are known for their yelling.
“We have to get those 50-50 balls,” he screamed toward his assistants who were a few feet below him and the raised court.
His best yelling came at the end of the game.
With 5 seconds left and the Huskies up by six, Ollie extended his arms in the air. He turned toward the crowd and let out a scream.
He exchanged a quick hug with Calipari, shook hands with the Kentucky assistants and players. Then turned toward the court and started celebrating with his players and staff.
“I liked it when he was yelling at Phillip,” Calhoun said with a big laugh as he stood on a court filled with confetti and streamers. “Seriously, what Kevin does is get the kids to believe and you want to do as a coach is to get the kids to believe in you believing in them.”
Daniels said Ollie is “like one of us. He’s like one of our teammates. He’s always joking around and playing around with us every day in practice, and I mean he just cares for everybody in this locker room and loves each and every one, and everybody loves him on this team. It’s just amazing to have him as a coach. He’s just phenomenal.”
Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel was walking along by himself about 20 minutes after the game.
He was asked if Ollie could start a trend of longtime NBA players becoming college coaches as happened earlier Monday when Florida Atlantic hired Michael Curry.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I do know I have a great one. If he leads a path of others doing it that would be great but right now we have him.”
April 03, 2014
March 27, 2014
By Kenneth Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Selecting the first African American to become a standard barrier is not always easy which is why Jackie Robinson is so significant a figure today as he was when he integrated Major League Baseball in 1947.
The University of Connecticut basketball head coach Kevin Ollie is not the Jackie Robinson of the coaching fraternity, but when he leads the No. 7 seed Huskies against No. 3 Iowa State in the round of Sweet 16 on Friday in New York he will be carrying the weight of the Crenshaw High School basketball community.
Ollie replaced the legendary Hall of fame coach Him Calhoun responsibility on Sept. 13, 2012, when he was named the 18th head coach in the history of UConn men’s basketball.
“Kevin Ollie epitomizes what we want a UConn athlete, a UConn student, to be all about. When you say that about somebody, that’s heavy stuff,” Calhoun said. “Any fox hole you need to jump in, there's your guy. Anytime you need a person who won’t quit, there’s your guy.”
However, his long and arduous trek to the pinnacle of one of college basketball’s most prestigious coaching jobs began nearly 25 years ago while he was playing for legendary Crenshaw High coach Willie West.
“He’s a splitting image of Coach West,” said former Crenshaw great John Williams. “Coach West would sit us down and have these long talks to us about life that gave us a since of perspective beyond the game of basketball.”
During the early 1990s, Ollie was the starting guard on two of Crenshaw’s City title winning teams, but he was not among the most talent players to wear a Cougars uniform.
“He wasn’t as talented, but was smart and hard working and learned the system. He has the right temperament and we all want him to be successful,” added Williams, who starred at LSU before playing nearly a decade in the NBA.
Ollie graduated from Crenshaw and was among the first Southern California players to go east.
“I wanted to get away from L.A.,” Ollie told another publication. “Not get away from my family, but get away from the environment I grew up in. This was like a total 360. I felt relaxed, I felt calm. And when I got into the gym and saw how Coach Calhoun pushed his guys to be perfectionists on and off the basketball court, I fell in love with it.”
He spent 13 seasons in the NBA and never averaged more than 8 points in single seasons earning a reputation throughout the league as an outstanding teammate, with strong moral fiber, impeccable character, and a vast knowledge of the game.
Subsequently perseverance finally paid off with a multi-year contract from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Then went to Cleveland to mentor a young LeBron James about acting as a professional and Oklahoma City brought Ollie in to do the same for Kevin Durant.
During a 13-year NBA career, Ollie played for 11 different franchises in 12 cities and learned from 15 different NBA coaches.
Ollie was once cut from a team on Christmas day. “What a Christmas present,” he remembered.
However with all that experience and the high recommendation of Calhoun to become the next Huskie coach, the school hired him on an interim basis, essentially a seven-month audition.
He led a team that was banned from the NCAA tournament to a 20-10 record and was rewarded with a multi-year contract.
In just his second season he has UConn playing in the round of Sixteen, compiling a 28-8 record and two victories away from the Final Four.
“The Crenshaw Family is so special,” explained Greg Hamilton whose son Daniel Hamilton, a star at St. John Bosco will be playing for Ollie in the fall. “He really get’s it. He understands inner city kids and loves what basketball has done for him, and coming out of Crenshaw makes it all the more special.”
Ollie’s mother, Dorothy, became an ordained minister in the Hays Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1989, and Kevin attended services with her from the time he was a child. She never shied from community involvement, never stopped trying to make a difference.
He was born Dallas on Dec. 27, 1972, and raised in Los Angeles. Now, Ollie resides in Glastonbury, Ct. a town that boasts a small private lake named Diamond Lake, which is surrounded by growing subdivisions of large homes. A far distant from Crenshaw High.
He’s married to Stephanie, also an UConn grad (1997), and the couple are proud parents of two children, son Jalen and daughter Cheyanne.
Somewhere, Willie West is smiling, his former teammates are rooting and a bevy of Crenshaw Alumni are cheering for one of their own.
The Good Son, the humble soldier, The Cougar, who has done them all proud.
LAWT News Services
John Wooden Player of the Year and leading City Player of the Year candidate Elijah Stewart and El Camino Real star Julian Richardson will join forces to lead the City Section boy’s team at Collision XVI at Redondo Union High School on April 19, it was announced today.
Steward of Westchester High led the Comets to the Open Southern California Regional Championship where it faltered to Mater Dei, and Richardson along with fellow teammates Meleke Haynes and Evan Wardlow propelled El Camino Real to the boys Division I City title over Westchester.
In all five players from the City D-I title tilt were selected to represent the boys City team in Stewart, Westchester’s Nick Hamilton, Wardlow, Haynes and Richardson. Narbonne’s Uchenna Okeneme and Reverend Maduakor, Sylmar’s Devenir Duruisseau, Rancho Dominguez 7-footer William Brooks, Washington Brandon Crawford, San Pedro’s Quincy Thomas, University’s Darnell Bettis and Fairfaix duo of Olisaemeka Nwachie and Sage Woodruff complete the team.
The City boys will be coached by Narbonne’s Coach of the Year candidate Anthony Hilliard.
View Park’s Mareshah Farmer, who led the City in scoring with a 29 point per game scoring average, will lead a City girl’s team that features Narbonne’s Jade Everage Narbonne and Kayla Brady, Judith Espinoza of Eagle Rock, Irma Munoz of Garfield and LACES dynamo of Sara Mills- LACES and Liran Schahaf. Rounding out the team will be Jasmyne Davis and Brianna Wade of Washington Prep, Stephanie Perez of Torres, Lupe Cruz of Southeast, Palisades’ Kylie Bethel and Hayley Hutt-Palisades. Jessica Torres of Garfield will coach the Girls City team.
The City Boys lead the Southern Boys 8-7 and the Southern Girls have dominated their city rivals 12-3. The girl’s game will tip at 5:30p.m. and the boy’s game will begin at 7p.m. Tickets are $10.
The WBC heavyweight championship rematch between top-rated world contenders, Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne and Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola taking place on May 10 at the USC Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles will be billed as “Fight for Peace.” Hall of Fame Promoter Don King of Don King Productions and Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions made the joint announcement recently.
“ESPN is in it to win it…and ‘win’ in it they have…hitting a grand slam home run in public opinion in welcoming the prodigal son of the sport of boxing – The WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World Title Event back to America – Halleluiah!” said King.
“Fight for Peace” was chosen as an international tribute to the fight for the title previously held by longtime champion Vitali Klitschko who stepped away from boxing officially in December 2013 to focus on the 2014 Ukrainian Presidential Election where he is seeking to become the country’s leader.
“Vitali was a great champion, in and out of the ring, and the winner of this fight will have big shoes to fill wearing the green belt around their waist,” said Dan Goossen promoter of Arreola. “Chris will definitely be going into this fight with his back against the wall. It’s that type of do-or-die situation I believe when he’s the most motivated and dangerous. To top off this history making, and what is sure to be great event, is ESPN’s participation, the home to all major sporting events, putting additional broadcast significance to this Heavyweight World Championship fight.”
Stiverne and Arreola previously battled on April 27, 2013 in Ontario, California, with the Florida resident winning a 12-round unanimous decision over the Southern California based Mexican-American who fought valiantly through a knockdown and broken nose, both suffered in the third round.
“Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola fighting for the most coveted crowning ceremony in the world of sports scheduled to take place on May 10, 2014 – as Heavyweights go…so goes boxing! Never has that saying had more relevance than now,” King said.
“Needless to say there is great joy in the land of fisticuffs creating great excitement for boxing fans around the world who will celebrate this homecoming with bated breath and great anticipation awaiting the destiny of this fantastic rematch: Stiverne vs. Arreola for the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World broadcast exclusively via ESPN.”
“The only thing I’m thinking about right now is putting my hands on that title,” said Stiverne.
“As a matter of fact, to me, I’m going to the ring like I’m defending my title. This title is mine. It’s my title, you know what I’m saying; they just didn’t give it to me yet. I’m going in there to defend my title. I feel like I’m ready already. I feel great. I look great and I just can’t wait man. I can’t wait to make history, so everybody lookout for that fight. It’s gonna’ be a fantastic performance and a lot of pain and a knockout,” stated top heavyweight contender Bermane Stiverne, who talked about his anticipated rematch with Chris Arreola and his own desire to be crowned the new WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World.”
Stiverne’s trainer, Don House added, “I’ve evaluated this fight and we have been going at this like Bermane hasn’t fought Arreola before, as if everything is brand new. Can Arreola bring anything into this fight differently? No. He may come to fight in the best shape of his life but he doesn’t have the skills to beat Bermane. He doesn’t have the power or speed that Bermane does. Arreola will be right there, Bermane won’t have to look for him, and Bermane will be ready to fight 12 rounds.”
Ranked the #2 heavyweight by the WBC, Arreola, 36-3-0 (31 KO’s), returned to action following the disappointing loss to Stiverne with a devastating first round stoppage of top contender Seth Mitchell on September 7, 2013 in Indio, California.
“I’m very excited about fighting for the WBC Title once again and having it seen on my favorite television network ESPN. I have a great opportunity to get my revenge against Stiverne and make history in one night and I plan to deliver,” stated Arreola.
Henry Ramirez, trainer of Arreola said, “Not too many times do you get a chance to right a wrong, and on May 10 Chris will have his chance to do just that with everything on the line. I know we have a tough task but I have zero doubt Chris Arreola will be the WBC World Heavyweight Champion and first ever of Mexican descent to hold such title.”
“Fight for Peace” from the USC Galen Center in Downtown Los Angeles will be televised live on Saturday, May 10 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN. Tickets, priced at $300, $200, $100, $50 and $25 (plus customary fees) will go on sale shortly.
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