Kevin Ollie

Kevin Ollie has support from Jim Calhoun, why not all of UConn?

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Friday afternoon, Andy Katz of ESPN was on the Connecticut campus to watch Kevin Ollie in his first year as the head coach of the Huskies.

As Katz reported, Jim Calhoun sat off to the side, offering support for the Ollie and UConn.

“I just think it’s good to be here and talk to Kevin afterwards and more importantly to support Kevin. This is his ship and his program,” Calhoun told Katz.

Ollie spent over a decade in the NBA, before spending two years as assistant coach at his alma mater being groomed to become a head coach.

However, when the Hall of Famer Calhoun retired in September, Ollie was the obvious choice and yet the initial contract didn’t exactly represent the same feeling. Ollie is working as the head coach, not the interim head coach, under the cloud of a one-year deal.

And as Katz wrote in his piece Friday, Calhoun doesn’t think this is the best plan for the program:

Calhoun and longtime assistant coach George Blaney don’t believe athletic director Warde Manuel should hesitate to give Ollie a long-term contract. But Manuel has made it clear he will observe Ollie before making a decision.

Calhoun said it would be a mistake to wait until after the season, when the chaos of a coaching search would occur and the opportunity to lock in recruits would be lost. The Huskies have two commitments from New York — wing Kentan Facey and point guard Terrence Samuel. Those two players and any others need to know who will be coaching UConn if they’re going to honor or make a commitment.

It’s difficult to feel sorry for someone who will make over $600,000 over seven months of work, but a one year deal was unfair to Ollie under these conditions. Regardless of how this season goes, it won’t be the best representation of Ollie as the leader of the program. He’s facing an uphill battle, yet the recruits highly respect him and that doesn’t seem to change in the near future.

The UConn recruiting class hasn’t been hurt thus far. In fact, you can make the case it has strengthened. A week following Calhoun’s announcement, Jabari Parker (Simeon/Chicago, IL) added UConn to his list of schools, before eventually cutting down his offers. Top-ten recruit, Noah Vonleh (New Hampton/Haverhill, MA) has UConn in his list of six schools.

If all goes according to plan, Ollie could land five players in ESPN’s Top 100 for his inaugural recruiting class. UConn had landed power forward Kentan Facey (Long Island Lutheran High/Glen Head, N.Y.) under Calhoun.

It’s not just UConn supporters, who feel this way, as Louisville coach Rick Pitino proved at the Big East Media Day:

I don’t know the new athletic director [Warde Manuel], but I can say this: There’s not a coach in the country Connecticut can hire that’s better than Kevin Ollie. He’s extremely bright. The players are going to love him. Technically, he’s very sound at the game of basketball. Overachiever as a player, college and pro. He attended UConn.”

To base Ollie’s future of the wins and losses would be a mistake. Ollie will land the recruits and rebuild the program. The longer the wait, the longer the chaos ensues about where this program is going and creates more and more uncertainty for prospective recruits.

Rousing endorsements from a Hall of Fame coach and a soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach should be enough. In the coming months Manuel and the rest of the UConn administration can make a key decision: extend Ollie and return the team to where it’s been or keep the storied program in limbo.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.