It didn’t take long for UConn coach Kevin Ollie to make a big splash at his former stomping grounds. The former Huskie coached his team to a title just two years after being named the men’s head basketball coach at the University of Connecticut. It was an underdog hire, which led to an underdog title. At age 41, Ollie’s poise and confident demeanor helped motivate and lead Connecticut to a fourth National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title in just 15 years. Without the chic freshmen stars that collegiate basketball has had to rely on for excitement over the past few seasons, Ollie was the big ticket, along with senior point guard Shabazz Napier. With a title in hand in just two short seasons, Ollie has some leverage. He could command a hefty salary if he stays put or he could say hello to what could and should be offers from the National Basketball Association (NBA). After achieving a championship at his former alma mater, could Ollie make the jump to the big leagues? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: It’s hard to say no when the NBA comes calling but Ollie’s already in a good place. He has his banner hanging at his former school and he’s now established as one of the fresh and famous faces of the NCAA. Leaving now would only hurt the program and put Ollie in a situation where he has to start fresh. He’s already cemented his place in Huskie history, especially after landing a title after long-loved head coach Jim Calhoun departed. The recruits should start knocking on his door after he put UConn back on the map. It only gets easier from here for Ollie after overcoming bans and other sanctions to hoist a title. The NBA will always be there but Ollie has a real chance to start his own legacy at UConn.
Green: I’ve always been the believer in striking while the iron is hot and no one’s stock is hotter right now than Ollie’s. It’s the top level competition that helps define a coach’s career and with so many job openings in the NBA this summer, Ollie should find his name on the who’s-who list of big time coaches. As a former NBA player and title-winning head coach, Ollie’s resume will definitely turn heads in the professional spectrum. Commanding a salary higher than his current won’t be an issue at all and with the 2014 draft class already being billed as a blockbuster one, Ollie would have the chance to not only make the jump but make the leap with a potential high draft pick.
Riley: There aren’t too many coaches with long tenure in the NBA right now. The stability that he’s already earned himself at UConn is something that more than half of college coaches dream about. The fact that Ollie’s already won a championship instantly allows him to breathe easily for the next few seasons despite whatever his record may be. Connecticut basketball was already an alluring sale. With a young and accomplished coach in place, the Huskies are back on the map as a powerhouse in the NCAA. Ollie would be wise to stay put, ring in the recruits and rack up the trophies as future success is destined for the former NBA point guard turned collegiate head coach.
Green: I would love to see Ollie stay put but the NCAA just doesn’t compare to the NBA. There have been several head coaches to falter once they shifted from the campus to the corporate world of the NBA but as a former player and a former player with assistant coach duties with the Thunder, Ollie has the chops to make it work. Opportunities are rare in the NBA for good gigs and there may be several attractive spots this summer with teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers potentially looking for new lead men. I remember no one thought Brad Stevens would leave Butler University after the terrific job he did there. But he eventually left to replace Doc Rivers as head coach of the Boston Celtics. I can see the same thing happening in Ollie’s future.