The Connecticut Huskies were in uncharted territory on April 7. While the Huskies have been in national championship games before, their title match with the Kentucky Wildcats was their first without Jim Calhoun. Second year coach Kevin Ollie wasn't intimidated, however, as Connecticut's 60-54 victory gave him the championship he lacked in his long NBA career -- a championship he previously only came close to with the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his college career at Connecticut, Ollie bounced around the NBA from 1997 to 2010. In fact, he had three different stints with the Sixers, as his longest was from 2004 to 2008. Yet his second stretch in Philadelphia was the most rewarding, when he came off the bench for the 2000-01 Eastern Conference champion Sixers.
Despite playing on 11 different NBA teams, the 2000-01 Sixers were the only ones who brought Ollie to the NBA Finals. Nevertheless, Allen Iverson and the other starters couldn't get him a ring. Afterwards, Ollie moved on with the Toronto Raptors -- who he already played for in two separate stretches.
Ollie often spent a season with two or three different teams, although he settled down by the end of his career. He departed from the Sixers for good in 2008 and finally retired with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010. At that point, Ollie moved on from the NBA and went back to Connecticut -- right on time to succeed Jim Calhoun when he retired in 2012.
Now in April 2014, the Sixers are trying to get the No. 1 draft pick, which they could use on one of the Kentucky freshmen that Ollie and Connecticut just beat. Meanwhile, Ollie has already eclipsed an NBA career where he spent a total of six years with Philadelphia, more than any other franchise.
It is commonplace for ex-Philadelphia athletes to become champions elsewhere in some way. No one has done it quite like Ollie, however -- especially since he is the first college coach to win a national championship within his first two seasons.
Few could have seen that coming when Ollie was a role player for the Sixers, let alone when the Huskies were slotted as a No. 7 seed in early March. But he found the magic touch -- and broke the heart of Philadelphia's own St. Joseph's Hawks and Villanova Wildcats along the way, in a final bit of irony.