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Calhoun officially named head coach at DIII St. Joseph

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Jim Calhoun has officially been named the head coach at Division III University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut.

The Hall of Famer had already announced he would be taking the job and has been working for a year to establish a men’s basketball program at the small Catholic university, which was an all-women’s school until this school year.

Calhoun also has continued to serve in an advisory role at UConn, where he served as coach for 26 seasons and led the Huskies to three of their four national titles before retiring in 2012.

The 76-year-old will return to the sidelines with a career record of 873-380 when the Blue Jays open the season on Nov. 9 against William Paterson University.

That game will be played at Trinity College in Hartford, which has a gym that seats about 2,200 people, about 1,000 more than the gymnasium at Saint Joseph.

UConn greats expect program to climb back to elite status

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Don’t tell Jim Calhoun or his former players that UConn is no longer an elite basketball program.

Yes, the Huskies have missed the NCAA Tournament three times in four years and are 30-35 the past two seasons while playing outside a power conference. UConn is under investigation by the NCAA, and has accused former coach Kevin Ollie of recruiting violations, prompting his firing in March and sparking at $10 million contract dispute.

But the Hall of Fame coach Calhoun says the program Dan Hurley has inherited remains of championship caliber.

“I still think that with four national championships from ’99, in the last 20 years, the last 19 years, we’re as good as anybody in the country and better than almost everybody else,” Calhoun said last week at his biennial UConn alumni charity game. “And there is no question in my mind that we can keep on going.”

The key to doing that will be for Hurley to embrace that past and the family atmosphere that has traditionally surrounded the program, Calhoun said.

UConn’s recent problems have had a lot to do with player recruitment, retention and development. The Huskies have landed relatively few top recruits and several players who have come have either left early for the professional ranks (Daniel Hamilton), transferred out (Steven Enoch, Vance Jackson) or been unable to contribute to at the level that had been anticipated because of injury (Alterique Gilbert).

Hurley has made a point of convincing current players, including Gilbert and guard Jalen Adams, to stay to create their own chapter in UConn’s storied history.

The new coach and several of his players, including Adams and Gilbert, were in the stands Friday night as about 50 former UConn players and coaches returned to honor Calhoun, raise money for charity and relive past glory.

The gathering included many of the big names from an era when the Huskies had 13 NBA lottery picks. Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Rudy Gay, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Charlie Villanueva and Jeremy Lamb all played.

And while that level of talent may seem like a distant memory to many fans, Allen said he believes Hurley can still get top recruits to come to Connecticut, no matter what conference they are in and despite their recent troubles both on and off the court.

“Every university goes through its lulls,” said Allen, who will be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame next month. “We’ve established such greatness here that we’ve given people a lot to expect and a lot to be proud of. I just think that we have to keep pushing forward.”

Allen and other alumni said they also think it’s important the school settle its dispute with Ollie, who played point guard for the Huskies in the 1990s before becoming an assistant under Calhoun and then taking over as head coach.

The school, in outlining why it fired Ollie, cited several recruiting violations, including shooting baskets with a recruit on a visit to campus and arranging a video call between recruits and Allen.

“I don’t think this (rift) should hurt us and I don’t think it will,” Villanueva said. “There is too much history and too much work that Calhoun has done. At UConn we will always be a family and a brotherhood. That’s one thing that coach (Calhoun) instilled in all of us.”

Ryan Boatright, the point guard under Ollie on UConn’s 2014 national championship team, said he believes the recent hard times have given UConn players and fans another chip on their shoulders.

“We’ve always had that. We won in ’11 and people said we’d never do it again it ’14 (as a seventh seed),” he said. “So as long as these guys come in and work hard and feel they’ve got something to prove, we should be all right.”

UConn’s Mamadou Diarra out four-to-six months

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Dan Hurley’s first season in Storrs may begin with his sophomore forward on the shelf.

Mamadou Diallo, who averaged 10 minutes per game last season, will be out four-to-six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the school announced Monday.

“The surgery went very well and there were no surprises,” UConn athletic trainer James Doran said in a statement released by the school. “Mamadou will begin rehab immediately and we would expect him to make a full recovery.”

The  6-foot-8 forward from Queens suffered the injury during workouts last week and an MRI revealed the extent of the injury. He’s no stranger to knee injuries as he sat out the 2016-17 season due to patellofemoral syndrome, a condition that results in significant knee discomfort from the stress of high-level basketball.

Diarra averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds while appearing in 31 games last season for the Huskies.

UConn went 14-18 last year in a campaign that ended with the firing of Kevin Ollie and the hiring of Hurley, who went to back-to-back NCAA tournaments at Rhode Island the last two seasons.

UConn president says Ollie committed serious violations

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn President Susan Herbst told Kevin Ollie she was upholding his firing because the former men’s basketball coach had a pattern of breaking NCAA rules and committed serious violations, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The school released the June 19 letter from Herbst to Ollie on Monday in response to open records requests from the AP and other news organizations.

Ollie has asserted that the violations which led to his firing in March were minimal and isolated.

Herbst refutes that idea in the letter, writing that “eventually even a series of ‘isolated’ or ‘de mimimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men’s Basketball program under your leadership.”

She said the violations “are serious under any definition which may be applied and constitute just cause for your termination.”

Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said the minor issues cited by Herbst can’t be called a pattern “just by lumping them together and claiming a pattern exists.”

“The collective bargaining agreement requires ‘serious misconduct’ with each act to be viewed on its own merit in order to have just cause to terminate employment,” he said. “President Herbst’s letter claiming serious misconduct based on this alleged ‘pattern of non-compliance’ is just bootstrapping and nothing more than a desperate attempt to articulate a reason that sound legitimate in order to deny Coach Ollie the money he is owed by UConn.”

Ollie has been appealing the decision to fire him with cause, which would allow the school to forgo paying him the more than $10 million left on his contract with the school.

Michael Bailey, the director of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the employee union that represents Ollie has said the union plans to take the decision to arbitration.

The violations cited by Athletic Director David Benedict in firing Ollie and outlined in more than 1,300 pages of documents released last week include: Ollie shooting baskets with a recruit during an unofficial visit to the school last September; Ollie arranging a video call between a potential recruit and Ray Allen, the former NBA great who is now considered a school booster by the NCAA and Ollie arranging improper training sessions with a friend who is a personal trainer both on campus and during out of state trips that amounted to improper gifts.

Herbst said in her letter that Ollie’s failure to report any inadvertent violations constitutes either a knowing disregard for his compliance obligations or a “gross inability to satisfy them.”

Ollie was fired after a 14-18 season amid an NCAA investigation. He led UConn to a 127-79 record over six seasons, including the 2014 national title.

The NCAA has not released the results of its investigation.

The documents provided by UConn last week include transcripts of interviews by the school’s compliance staff and NCAA officials about alleged violations. That includes secondhand information provided by former UConn assistant coach Glenn Miller, who was fired by Ollie after the 2016-17 season, about an alleged $30,000 payment by Ollie to the mother of a player.

That was not cited by Benedict as one of the issues leading to Ollie’s firing and Parenteau has said it is untrue.

Former UConn assistant levies serious accusations at Kevin Ollie

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On Thursday, after a Freedom Of Information Act request filed by local newspapers, UConn released more than 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the investigation that led to the decision to fire of Kevin Ollie.

In those documents were the fairly innocuous NCAA violations that were allegedly committed by Ollie that UConn used as “just cause” for firing him and digging themselves out of the $10 million that he was owed on that contract.

But that is just the beginning of where this thing gets interesting, because there are more accusations levied at Ollie than what UConn was able to confirm.

Let’s start with this one: Former assistant coach Glen Miller said that Ollie paid $30,000 to the mother of a recruit to allow her to afford an apartment and move to Connecticut to be closer to her son. He didn’t have any first-hand information — his wife had befriended the mother of the player and opened up about it while they were on a road trip together — but that’s not the only bomb that Miller tried to drop. He also alleged that Ollie fired his former agent because he wouldn’t help him to recruit, which Miller implies is the agent paying players to go to UConn.

Again, none of these allegations are corroborated. This is Miller, a long-time UConn assistant that was fired — and is clearly still bitter about it — passing along things that he had heard second-hand. One story was from his wife, the other was from one of the most powerful agents in the business. There’s no proof those conversations actually happened, let alone that what was discussed is actually true.

But this is a good example of just how ugly this thing has a chance to get.

There is $10 million on the line for a school and a state that is not exactly overflowing in cash, but is there a larger cost that could be associated with this decision? Could fighting to save that $10 million eventually turn up major violations within the UConn program?

As it stands, Ollie has not technically been fired by UConn yet. He is only suspended with pay as of now. The process to fire him included a hearing with athletic director David Benedict in April and a hearing with school president Susan Herbst last month. Both Benedict and, as of yesterday, Herbst supported the decision to fire Ollie with cause, meaning that he will now be forced to face arbitration. If that ruling goes against him, he will have the option to take UConn to court, which, it seems, he will be willing to do.

Which is where the headache for UConn comes into play.

Do they really want to have a case that has already had these accusations come to light get discussed in a court of law? If this is what a FOIA turns up, what happens during depositions? For a program that has already dealt with their share of NCAA scandals — which, mind you, did not get Jim Calhoun fired — is it really worth the money to risk having even more turn up?

The worst kept secret in college basketball is that UConn is grasping at straws with this decision. They want anything they can find that will allow them to get out from underneath what, in hindsight, was a terrible contract.

And in the end, that could cost them more than just money.

Report: Alleged NCAA violations against former UConn coach Kevin Ollie revealed

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie allegedly committed multiple NCAA violations that led to his dismissal last spring, according to a report released Wednesday by the Hartford Courant.

Ollie was dismissed from the position after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign as he’s been in a battle with the school over the remaining $10 million on his contract. Since Ollie was fired for just cause, the school is trying to withhold that remaining money as the case will proceed to arbitration. UConn president Susan Herbst upheld the school’s decision to terminate Ollie for just cause on Tuesday as he is still, technically, suspended without pay.

According to documents obtained by The Courant under a Freedom of Information Act request, Ollie and his staff committed multiple violations, including an impermissible phone call between Huskies legend Ray Allen and a recruit. Multiple UConn players were also sent to work with an outside trainer on campus, and later, in Atlanta. Another violation occurred when Ollie shot baskets with recruit James Akinjo during an official visit as the video was posted by Akinjo’s guardian on Twitter. The video was later deleted.

Among the 1,355 pages of documents that The Courant obtained, it includes the NCAA’s transcripts from their investigation as well as UConn’s case to terminate Ollie as head coach.

Perhaps the worst violation includes the alleged involvement of the trainer, as Ollie allegedly had a friendship with Derrek Hamilton. During the 2015-16 season, Hamilton allegedly worked out UConn players after hours during on-campus workouts as well as off-campus workouts. Three players also allegedly traveled to Atlanta to train with Hamilton as the players were fed, transported and housed for free — all of which are NCAA violations.

The NCAA has yet to proceed with any action against UConn as 900 pages of the report were based on the NCAA’s interviews and findings. Former UConn coach Glen Miller was also granted immunity in exchange for his testimony to the NCAA regarding the violations.

These alleged violations are a new step in the Ollie case, as the case does not look great for him to receive the remaining $10 million on the contract. Ollie and UConn still have to go through arbitration, but the release of these documents, and alleged violations, is very hurtful to Ollie’s case.

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