Is John Calipari or Kevin Ollie More Likely to Make the Leap to the NBA?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 2, 2014

Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari shakes hands with Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie before the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Out-of-the-box coaching hires are hot right now.

Forget about going after a recycled coach who's already been fired three different times. Fresh minds and thinking appear to be in, with experience and credentials now seemingly holding less weight on the resume.

And it looks like the Los Angeles Lakers will be interviewing, following the resignation of Mike D'Antoni. Two names that have been thrown out there as possible targets, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, have been Kentucky's John Calipari and Connecticut's Kevin Ollie—the two coaches who met in this year's NCAA national championship game. 

Calipari's name always seems to come up during coaching searches, given his tremendous success at the college level. Ollie is coming off his second season ever as a collegiate head coach, after spending years as an assistant to Huskies' legend Jim Calhoun. And he generated some serious buzz in March and April for his immediate impact and well-known, natural leadership during Connecticut's run to the title. 

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 06:  Head coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky and head coach Kevin Ollie of the University of Connecticut speak during the AT&T NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show at the Music Hall at Fair Park on April 6, 2014 in Dall
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Though the Lakers' job opening is probably the most attractive one on the market, it won't be the only one available—depending on what happens the rest of the playoffs, there could be a number of openings over the next month.

Chances are the interest the Lakers are showing in Ollie will end up spreading around the league. 

But at this point, you have to assume it's going to take a whole lot to pry Calipari from his throne at Kentucky, where he has every resource he needs to build the top program and his own personal brand. He also just raked in over $5 million dollars this season, per USA Today, so throwing money at him, unless it's an inordinate amount, probably isn't going to move the needle much. 

And I'd be shocked if he'd even consider a job that didn't offer a roster built to win now. The Lakers could be preparing for another down season, with the summer of 2015, for free-agent purposes, the target period to improve. 

However, Ollie, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, might be a little more open to accepting a job with a premier franchise and limited pressure to win right away.

Fred Beckham/Associated Press

According to Mark Medina of insidesocal.com, Ollie actually plans to "entertain a pitch with uncertainty" from the Lakers. “He’ll listen, but he’s real committed to his alma mater,” said a person close to Ollie, according to Medina. 

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that Ollie and Connecticut have engaged in contract discussions, but he "hasn't ruled out listening to NBA overtures."

Ollie might be really committed to Connecticut right now, but that commitment might be tough to maintain when an organization as prestigious as the Lakers is offering millions to coach the team. Just ask Brad Stevens, the former Butler Bulldogs coach who accepted the Boston Celtics coaching position last summer. 

Having recently retired from the pros, Ollie might also be able to make more of a connection with NBA players. He sure got a strong endorsement from Kevin Durant, who could be on the free-agent market in 2016.

 “Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us,” Durant told Grantland’s Bill Simmons, regarding their one season together in Oklahoma City. “He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City.”

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

It's also important to note that Connecticut will be losing its top two guns in Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels, and a key starter in Niels Giffey. You have to wonder if there's any part of Ollie that thinks maybe now is the time to strike while the iron is hot—especially considering the team is likely to take a step back without its previous floor general and starting wings. 

Calipari has already given the NBA coaching thing a shot. And based on his results, along with his college coaching track record, it's pretty safe to say his strengths center around recruiting, teaching and preparing young kids. 

If you're an NBA franchise looking for young blood on the sidelines, Ollie has to be considered a compelling option. And if you're Ollie, who already has more national titles than most college coaches ever dream of winning, you have to be intrigued by the thought capitalizing on that success.

The Lakers coaching job just doesn't open up every summer.

Who knows how strong the Lakers' interest is at this point—but whether it's the Lakers or a lower-profile franchise, you'd like to think that every college coach college like a shot coaching in the pros.

Calipari took his. Stevens did it with Boston last summer. Depending on the interest and the strength of the pitches he receives, Ollie could be next in line.


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