Throughout much of this past summer, officials at the University of Connecticut and at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport have been in talks of bringing both Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball to the city.
On Monday morning, a press conference was held at the WBA to announce that a partnership had officially been made between the arena and university. The Fairfield men’s basketball team already plays its home games at the arena, but bringing Husky basketball — the premier college basketball program in New England — to Bridgeport may prove to be more than just entertainment.
It’s not secret that Bridgeport is one of not only the toughest cities in Connecticut, but on the East coast — high school graduation rates are low and crime and gangs run rampant.
Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post wrote:
“We can all agree on this: Kids here need role models. They need role models from within the community, and they could sure use a positive, respected voice from the outside. We can agree on this, too: There are some terrific role models at UConn, some powerful speakers with inspiring stories that could resonate with Bridgeport youth. We can all agree that the partnership between the Huskies and Bridgeport shouldn’t be limited to a single basketball game in December.”
Kevin Ollie is clearly on board with bringing Connecticut basketball to Bridgeport, but having it be more than merely a 40 minute game.
Ollie’s slogan has been: “It’s about more than basketball.”
The second-year coach is following through with that sentiment. Ollie said: “There’s a lot of initiative we’re trying to put out right now in Hartford. Just telling (the kids) there are different things you need to do — just respecting yourself and respecting others and going to school and getting your education.”
The first game slated to be played in Bridgeport is on December 28th against Eastern Washington.
Don’t be surprised going forward if Connecticut continues to expand their brand to other corners of the state, and is engaging the youth of the community in more ways than just basketball.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.