Ollie is now the man in charge at Connecticut
When Connecticut plays Pitt on Saturday in the final Big East regular-season meeting between the schools, it will be difficult to determine which of the following is more unbelievable:
That neither the Huskies (12-4, 2-2 Big East) nor Panthers (14-4, 2-3) are nationally ranked, or that Jim Calhoun won't be standing on the Connecticut sideline.
This marks UConn's first trip to Petersen Events Center without the coach who won three NCAA crowns, 10 conference regular-season championships and seven Big East tournament titles.
Now coaching the Huskies is his hand-picked successor, Kevin Ollie, a former UConn point guard and 13-year NBA veteran who was elevated when Calhoun retired in September. After a season-opening victory over Michigan State, Ollie was rewarded last month with a five-year contract extension worth $7 million.
“This is Kevin's team, Kevin's show,” said Calhoun, now a special assistant to UConn athletic director Warde Manuel. “Kevin Ollie is such a unique individual. Kevin was always, in my opinion, the epitome of what you wanted as a person and a student-athlete. His experiences in the NBA and CBA — he went undrafted — showed that while he wasn't most talented, he had character, toughness, a belief in God and belief in UConn.
“He spanned so many people and situations for us. He touched all the things I thought would be important to a) keep the family together and b) be an outstanding coach. I'm really proud of what Kevin's doing. He's proven himself right away.”
Next for Ollie is proving he can win at the Pete. The Panthers have won five of six meetings against Connecticut, including the last three, and are looking to avenge their 75-65 loss to the Huskies last March.
“Connecticut has a great history. It's a prestigious school that has won national championships, had a lot of great players and has great players now,” Pitt junior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “When you play a team like that, you always want to make sure that you be aggressive and get that W.”
Ollie inherited a program amid an NCAA postseason ban for low APR rates, and UConn lost four starters from the team that beat Pitt last season, Leading scorer Jeremy Lamb and top rebounder Andre Drummond left early and were NBA lottery picks. Three others transferred, including starting center Alex Oriakhi (Missouri) and forward Roscoe Smith (UNLV).
Compounding matters is that junior guard Shabazz Napier, the lone returning starter and leading scorer at 17.1 points a game, is questionable after injuring his shoulder in Monday's 73-58 loss to Louisville in Hartford, Conn.
The Huskies have three other starters scoring in double figures: sophomore guard Ryan Boatright (15.8), sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels (10.9) and freshman guard Omar Calhoun (10.7).
Pitt knows how important following its victory at Villanova with another against Connecticut could be for its momentum, even if the rivalry won't seem the same without Calhoun.
“Looking over there, I'd think he'll still be somewhere close by,” Patterson said. “I'm sure he's got an ear in there somewhere. But Kevin Ollie is doing good things over there.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- Gorman: Not just a no-brainer for Pine-Richland’s DiNucci
- Pine-Richland’s DiNucci to Pitt; Kittanning’s Bowers opts for PSU
- Pitt expecting to see zone defense on the road against Virginia Tech
- Pitt coach Narduzzi adds N.J. linebacker recruit
- Junior-college DE interested in signing with Pitt
- Pitt point guard recruit trying to bolster 2015 class
- Pitt notebook: Pitino: This year’s Pitt team not as talented as past years
- Pitt’s Johnson to have shoulder surgery
- Tough times are in past for Pitt senior guard Kiesel
- Pitt offers scholarship to Pine-Richland QB DiNucci