It's not easy to replace a coaching legend, but Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie has done just that, and his team's success makes him a hot commodity.
After playing in the NBA for 12 seasons, Ollie became the assistant coach for the Huskies in 2010 under Jim Calhoun. Calhoun finally retired before the 2012 season after winning three national championship, and Ollie was named the new interim head coach.
The decision to make Ollie a head coach was criticized by many. He had only been an assistant for two years after an NBA career where he averaged just 3.8 points per game. However, the decision seemed to work, as the Huskies went 20-10 in Ollie's first season as head coach.
This season, the Huskies have gone 31-8 and will be playing the Kentucky Wildcats in the national championship on Monday night as a No. 7 seed. With wins over teams like Florida, Michigan State and Iowa State, it's safe to say that Ollie is doing something right.
Regardless of what happens on Monday, Ollie is going to be a very appealing coaching candidate around the country, and he's likely going to have to make the decision to stay at Connecticut or go somewhere else.
A number of teams, even in the NBA, will likely be calling Ollie about possibly becoming a head coach elsewhere. We've seen this before quite recently with former Butler head coach Brad Stevens. After taking the school to two consecutive national championships in 2010 and 2011, Stevens left the Bulldogs after the 2012-13 season for the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics.
Eric Pincus from the Los Angeles Times recently suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers should try to target Ollie as their next head coach, claiming that he's well-respected among NBA players. Pincus provided the following quotes from Kevin Durant on his playing time with Ollie back in 2009 and 2010:
Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us. He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City. His mind-set, his professionalism every single day. And we all watched that. We all wanted to be like that.
The big question for Ollie will be if he will stay loyal to the team that made him a head coach. After signing a $7 million extension back in 2012, Ollie seemed determined to stay with the Huskies, telling ESPN's Andy Katz, "It's a five-year contract, but I'm looking at it like I can be the coach here for 20-25 years."
Other NBA teams and franchises will likely be trying to target Ollie as well. While he's only been a head coach for two seasons, his players have rallied around him, and his coaching style seems to be one that they respond to. Senior guard Shabazz Napier described making the transition from playing for Calhoun to Ollie, per Greg Logan from Newsday.com:
Coach Calhoun was the guy that yelled at you. Coach Ollie was the guy that patted you on the back and kept you moving forward. He's been where we all want to be, a point guard in the NBA. A guy who never pointed fingers at anybody but himself through all his trials and tribulations. You can learn from that.
Ollie has more important things to think about than his coaching future with a national title on the line, but given his lengthy NBA career and early success coaching for the Huskies, it looks like his future is very bright, regardless of where he goes.
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