In the aftermath of his leading UConn to the national title last month, head coach Kevin Ollie became an even more popular figure in NBA coaching circles. With his lengthy playing career and coaching acumen, the UConn alum’s name was bound to come up as franchises looked to fill their vacancies. However all along Ollie stated his desire to remain in Storrs, and on Thursday he and the school have officially come to an agreement on a new five-year contract.
The contract, which runs through the 2018-19 season, will eventually pay Ollie $3.2 million in the final year of the deal. Ollie’s salary in 2014-15 will be $2.8 million, making him the highest-paid coach in the American Athletic Conference and one of the top ten highest-paid coaches in America.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to agree to a new contract and that we’ll be able to continue to build upon the success we’ve had,” Ollie said in the release. “It’s a humbling experience to be around the UConn fans and the UConn family and to know that I am their basketball coach for the foreseeable future. I’m very proud of that. UConn is a place that I love and as I’ve told everyone throughout the season and through all the recent speculation, this is where my heart is. This is where I wanted to be.
“I’m very thankful to President Herbst and Warde Manuel for showing confidence in me and my coaching staff,” Ollie continued. “It’s the student-athletes who have sacrificed to uphold the standards we have set at UConn and done such a terrific job. I’m happy and excited to be able to continue to invest in their basketball careers and their lives.”
There are also incentives for reaching certain academic and athletic benchmarks, but the key for both sides are the buyouts should Ollie leave UConn for another job. Leaving the school for another job, be it college or professional, would cost Ollie $5 million after the 2014-15 season and $4 million after the 2015-16 campaign. But that’s where the similarities end.
Ollie leaving UConn for another college job following the 2016-17 season would result in a buyout of $3 million, with the cost being $2 million in each of the final two years of the contract. But if he were to make the jump to the NBA following any of the final three years of the contract, the buyout would be just $1 million.
The defending national champions will have to account for the loss of key players such as Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and DeAndre Daniels. But with Ryan Boatright leading a group that will include Amida Brimah, Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton the Huskies won’t lack for talent.
Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.
The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.
A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.
Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.
The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.
“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”
Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.
Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.
The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.
“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release. “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”
Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.
“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.
“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”
John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.
10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?
What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.
To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:
“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”
One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.
North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.
A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.
Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.
Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.