With Mike D'Antoni's coaching seat mercifully vacated, the Los Angeles Lakers need to find someone capable of erasing an awful taste from their mouths. UConn national championship coach and former NBA point guard Kevin Ollie just might be the right man for that job.
Updates from Tuesday, May 6
Ollie has taken to Twitter to deny that he has a meeting set up with the Lakers:
Don't Believe everything you hear!! Only meeting I have is with my team on Thursday at Gampel.. We are preparing everyday for Greatness!!— Kevin Ollie (@CoachKO_UConn) May 6, 2014
According to Fox Sports' Bill Reiter, the two sides are expected to meet in the near future to discuss the position:
Source close to Kevin Ollie says he plans to visit with Lakers in coming weeks about head-coaching job. Meeting not yet set up but expected.— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) May 6, 2014
Reiter added that Ollie is leaning toward staying at his alma mater, but still wants to have the conversation with the Lakers:
Source tells me Ollie plans to stay at Connecticut but wants to just listen to Lakers/have conversation about the opening.— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) May 6, 2014
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, however, reported that the Lakers have not reached out to Ollie. As such, there is no scheduled get-together for the two just yet:
Contrary to what's out there, I've been told by those in the know that Lakers haven't contacted Kevin Ollie yet. No meeting yet is planned— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 6, 2014
Medina had previously reported the Lakers were "expected to reach out" to Ollie, but he'd also heard from a source the coach was "real committed to his alma mater."
If that phone call hasn't come yet, it might simply be a formality.
As noted by Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Ollie has long been mentioned among the star-studded list of coaching candidates the Lakers have been linked to recently. Bresnahan also included North Carolina's Roy Williams and the Chicago Bulls' Tom Thibodeau among that group.
Ollie recently began talks on a contract extension with the Huskies, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, but he "hasn't ruled out listening to NBA overtures."
His name might carry the strongest buzz in the college ranks at the moment. The 41-year-old guided his seventh-seeded team to the national title this season, displaying a potent mix of strategic savvy and confidence-instilling leadership.
If he's interested in a leap to the big leagues, this might be the right time to jump.
He'll lose tournament MVP Shabazz Napier and rising junior forward DeAndre Daniels to the NBA this summer, meaning he'll have plenty of pieces to pick up in order to come anywhere close to a repeat performance.
Coaching buzz is extremely reactionary. Ollie wouldn't lose all of his NBA interest overnight, but his name could slide down the list of desirables should he stub his toe in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately profession.
Fresh off their second-worst season in franchise history (27-55), the Lakers are a long way from relevance. Whoever takes this job will need to have an abundance of patience, confidence and the thickest of skins.
ShamSports indicates that the franchise has ample cap space for this summer, but it may opt to preserve that financial flexibility for the coming free-agent crops.
That bond with Durant, which the MVP described to ESPN's Bill Simmons during All-Star weekend (h/t CBS Philly's Spike Eskin), should put another feather in Ollie's intriguing coaching hat. KD detailed his admiration for his former teammate, perhaps foreshadowing a relationship the two could rekindle down the line.
"Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us," Durant said. "He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City."
Assuming Ollie makes an NBA leap, expect the Durant link to be discussed ad nauseam.
That part of his resume alone should qualify Ollie as the kind of "splash" hire the Lakers are reportedly looking to make, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. Throw in his tactical mind and ability to relate to his players, and it's clear the Lakers could do a lot worse than him.
The question Ollie must figure out is whether he can do any better.