In three seasons as UConn’s head coach, following two years as an assistant under Hall of Fame Coach Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie has already experienced a long career’s worth of ups and downs. At 42, Ollie is considered one of the bright, rising stars in the college basketball coaching world.
It took Ollie just 70 games to join the elite of the profession–those who have won an NCAA championship.
In just his second season as UConn’s head basketball coach and only his fourth year in coaching since retiring from the NBA, Ollie firmly established himself in the college game by guiding the Huskies to a 32-8 season in 2013-14 and the NCAA title, defeating Kentucky, 60-54.
It would have been a dream season for any college coach, but for a coach of just 70 games, whose team was not even able to compete in the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of academic shortcomings of years long past, it was truly remarkable. The Huskies, who had a 12-6 mark in the new American Athletic Conference, won eight of their last nine games, 11 of their last 13, and had a 10-4 record against ranked opponents, including two wins against Florida, the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Ollie’s UConn history, which began in the fall of 1991 when he reported to school as a freshman from Los Angeles, continued through four successful seasons, including two as a Husky team captain, and resumed when he returned to join Calhoun’s coaching staff following a 13-year NBA career–has come full circle.
“It’s a humbling experience to be around the UConn fans and the UConn family and to know that I am their basketball coach for the foreseeable future,” Ollie said. “I’m very proud of that. UConn is a place that I love. This is where my heart is.”
Yet it was after his UConn career that Ollie was most impressive, displaying unmatched perseverance, intestinal fortitude, and a never-say-die attitude as he fought his way through years in the Continental Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League to get his chance in the NBA. Once there, Ollie earned a reputation throughout the league as an outstanding teammate, with strong moral fiber, impeccable character, and a vast knowledge of the game. His perseverance finally paid off with a multi-year contract from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ollie had been brought 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.