Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP

College names surface in reports regarding Lakers coaching vacancy

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With some NBA head coaching jobs opening up, it’s that time of year when the names of prominent college basketball head coaches get mentioned for such opportunities. Of course we’ve all become used to the annual rumors involving Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has yet to move away from one of the top jobs in the sport.

His name is one that has come up in recent reports surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ opening, with Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and Villanova’s Jay Wright among those being mentioned by various outlets as well.

Ollie, who led his alma mater to a national title in his second season at the helm, was mentioned in reports by both Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.

Ollie told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday that he has had no contact with the Lakers. He said he will always listen if called but it would take “something very special” to pull him away from UConn.

Ollie’s contract, which was signed after he led the Huskies to the national title in 2014, has a clause that would allow him to terminate his contract without penalty “on or after the one-year anniversary” of the departure of either athletic director Warde Manuel or UConn president Susan Herbst. Manuel left UConn in January to take over as athletic director at Michigan (his first official day was March 14), so a departure now would not meet the one-year requirement.

The buyout to leave for an NBA job would be $4 million until May 31, with the buyout amount dropping to $1 million after that date.

The latter report also named Wright, Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams as names the Lakers could consider for their opening. Wright led Villanova to its second national title earlier this month, and his Wildcats have won the last three Big East regular season titles.

NBA franchises have been more willing to look at successful college coaches in recent years, with Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan making the jump to the pros last season. Hoiberg took over in Chicago, but things didn’t go as planned for the Bulls as they missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. As for Donovan, he’s running the show in Oklahoma City where the Thunder are up three games to one on the Mavericks.

Both coaches took jobs with (at first glance) the talent needed to be successful, which is a far cry from the jobs Calipari and Rick Pitino took with the Nets and Celtics respectively during the mid-1990’s. Does the Lakers job fit that mold? Having won a total of 38 games in their last two seasons, not to mention needing to fill the hole left by the retirement of Kobe Bryant, one can argue that this would not be an optimal job for a college coach to take.

But with the Lakers being a franchise that’s won 16 titles, the appeal of leading such a storied franchise can’t be denied even with the recent struggles.

Former Big East foes set to renew acquaintances?

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In the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, Syracuse and Connecticut met for the first time since the programs left the Big East in 2013. Of course the game, which the Orange won, made many nostalgic for the days when that game would be a conference matchup with far higher stakes. And apparently, fans may not have to wait too long for the next meeting between the two programs.

Obviously UConn head coach Kevin Ollie used the word “hopefully” when discussing the possibility of there being a UConn/Syracuse matchup on next season’s schedule, so nothing’s set in stone. But hopefully the two sides can some to an agreement…maybe a home and home with a neutral site meeting at Madison Square Garden?

That wouldn’t be a bad deal at all, especially when considering the number of important meetings in the series. Both programs have made efforts to get former conference foes on their respective non-conference schedules, with Syracuse having already played Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova since their move to the ACC.

UConn will play the first game in its home and home series with Georgetown this weekend, and adding another former Big East to the mix would help their non-conference résumé in future years given the strength of the American Athletic Conference compared to its last conference home.

Hamilton leads UConn over Central Connecticut 99-52

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Daniel Hamilton posted the 11th triple double in UConn history as the Huskies rolled to a 99-52 victory over Central Connecticut State Wednesday afternoon at the XL Center.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to become the 10th player in school history to accomplish the feat. Former UConn guard Shabazz Napier, who now plays for the Orlando Magic, is the lone Husky to do it twice.

Shonn Miller added a team-high 25 points to lead the Huskies (8-3), who head into the holiday break on a three-game win streak.

UConn was playing its second straight game without injured 7-foot center Amida Brimah.

Rodney Purvis added 16 points, Sterling Gibbs 12 and Kentan Facey 10. UConn shot over 60 percent from the field for the third straight time, finishing at 60.3 (38-for-63).

UConn played with a short bench minus Brimah (broken finger) and reserve guard Sam Cassell Jr. (sprained ankle). Brimah sat out Sunday’s win over UMass-Lowell with a testicular contusion, but returned to practice Monday where he broke his right middle finger. He was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday afternoon.

The Blue Devils (1-9) took advantage of Brimah, who ranks ninth in the nation with 3.0 blocks per game, being out in the first half. CCSU used a 15-6 run to pull within five, 30-25, with 4:46 to go in the first half.

UConn answered with a 16-1 run to close the half. Miller scored 14 points and the Huskies shot 58 percent from the field to grab a 46-26 lead. They also scored 15 points off 10 CCSU turnovers.

Miller stayed hot to open the second half and helped UConn pull away with an 18-8 opening run to lead 64-34 with 13:52 to play.

The fifth-year senior Miller sat the final 13:10 as UConn went to the bench.

Hamilton reached 10 assists and 10 rebounds early in the second half, but had only two points. He quickly caught up in the latter category before heading to the bench for the final 6:15.

The Blue Devils were led by 16 points from Austin Nehls.

The 47-point loss was the worst of the season for the Blue Devils, who are coached by former UConn assists Howie Dickenman.

TIP-INS:

Central Connecticut: The Blue Devils snapped an eight-game losing skid to open the season with a win over UMass-Lowell. … . The Blue Devils were just 4-for-17 from 3-point range.

UConn: The Huskies outscored CCSU 56-22 in the paint.

UP NEXT

CCSU is home against Yale on Wednesday.

UConn plays at Texas on Tuesday.

UConn fan costs himself $100,000 after National Title win

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Corey Johnson correctly predicted the National Title matchup with the No. 7 seed UConn facing No. 8 seeded Kentucky. He says he had the Huskies winning it all, but there was only one problem: he didn’t register that pick on the Yahoo- Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.

That slip up will cost him $100,000.

The Connecticut native told Deadspin that he thought he had set UConn as his national champion, but by the time he realized his mistake his picks were already locked in and could not be changed.

MORE: Kentucky fan gets tattoo reading “2014 Nati9nal Champions”

The 28-year-old Johnson remained in good spirits about the whole ordeal.

“Maybe someone who needs it more than I do is going to win because I won’t,” he told Deadspin.

 

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Kevin Ollie on playing games in Bridgeport: ‘It’s about more than basketball’

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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.

Seven schools remain in the hunt for former Louisville commit

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Earlier this summer, 2014 guard Quentin Snider made the decision to reopen his recruitment after being verbally committed to attend Louisville for nearly two years. On Thursday it was reported that the Louisville native has narrowed his list down to seven schools, with an official visit to UCLA this weekend.

In addition to UCLA, Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Connecticut and USC are still in the running for Snider’s services according to Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Quentin Snider, a top candidate for 2014 Kentucky Mr. Basketball honors and the nation’s No. 31 prospect, according to Scout.com and Rivals.com, also has an official visit scheduled to UConn and an unofficial visit to Illinois on Sept. 28. A planned unofficial visit to Memphis, which had made a scholarship offer, for Sept. 28 will presumably be canceled.

Per 247Sports‘ composite rankings (an average of the major scouting services’ rankings) Snider is one of four point guards in the Top 10 who has yet to commit to a school. The others are Tyus Jones, Jordan McLaughlin and Tyler Ulis, with Jones and Ulis receiving a great deal of attention in recent months. Interestingly enough both Michigan State, one of seven schools on Snider’s list, is also in hot pursuit of Ulis with Kentucky being seen as the main competition for his (Ulis) services.

With the high number of already-committed players at the position, expect the recruitment of those players to become even more spirited as official visits are taken in the fall.