For quite some time the basketball programs at the University of Connecticut have gone without a basketball-specific practice facility, something that’s become the norm for high-level programs in the facilities “arms race” era.
The school’s been looking to change that and approved plans for a project that will ultimately cost $38 million, with $24 million in donations and pledges already made. And shortly after the approval was announced, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his wife Stephanie pledged $100,000 to the project.
“I thought it was very important to show my commitment to the UConn Basketball Development Center,” Ollie said in the statement. “I have had the incredible opportunity to be a member of the Husky family, and that experience has influenced every part of my life.
“I want to be an example for all former UConn basketball student-athletes, who have had the privilege of playing for two Hall of Fame coaches, to join me in supporting this facility. It will help ensure the long-term success of the programs that all of us helped establish.”
The donation is just the latest step Ollie has taken in his first season in charge of the Husky program to ensure its health in the future following the retirement of Jim Calhoun.
The Huskies are 2-0 on the season, which includes a win in Germany over Michigan State that few expected to happen when considering UConn’s lack of interior depth and the postseason ban.
Ollie’s stressed loyalty to the program while also displaying his loyalty to the players who made the decision to remain in Storrs despite Calhoun’s retirement and the loss of an opportunity to play in the postseason.
And he hasn’t gotten on top of a soapbox to campaign for a new contract either, simply saying that the decision rests in the hands of athletic director Warde Manuel (who has said he would consult with both Calhoun and president Susan Herbst in the decision-making process).
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Ollie said. “Warde is going to have his decision made on how these kids play, and at the end of the day I’m going to be fine. I’m going to love UConn and bleed blue no matter if I’m here or not here. I’m just approaching every day like I’m going to be here for a lifetime.”
In donating to the facility project Ollie is putting his money where his mouth is. The school plans to break ground on the new project in the spring.