For the UConn men’s basketball its’ been a whirlwind six weeks since the Huskies notched their fourth championship. Graduations, victory parades, injuries, transfers and a steady stream of rumors surrounding the NBA future of head coach Kevin Ollie have all been the stories since the off-season began. The 2014-2015 squad that will be defending the National Championship will have a very different look next season, possibly from the head coach right on down the bench.
Despite talks of a much deserved restructuring of Ollie’s current contract following the championship win over Kentucky in early April, the rumor mill has been working overtime. As recently as Sunday, unnamed sources continued to link the coach’s name to a number of high profile pro coaching positions including the Lakers and the Cavaliers. No one should be surprised if the New York media courts Ollie for the Knicks job, now that presumed Phil Jackson favorite Steve Kerr has taken over the Golden State job. If the stories are to be believed Ollie has done little to squelch the rumors himself, reportedly seeking a minimum five-year, $25 million dollar contract to leave Storrs.
For Ollie, notching a National Championship in only his second season at the helm, while employing an NBA style game, his stock may never be higher. Good news for him and bad news for the program. The UConn faithful had hoped that the past 12 months had served to put the two years of turmoil preceding that to rest. Should Ollie depart it may prove to be a setback that UConn men’s basketball may not recover from for some time, with high profile recruits and big name college coaches passing on the University, while the Huskies remain mired in the American Athletic Conference.
AAC pays homage
With Connecticut once again crowned the college basketball center of the universe following men’s and women’s National Championships on successive nights, the AAC, under Commissioner Mike Aresco, wasted no time in moving the men’s Conference Championship, played in Memphis last season, to Hartford for the March 2015 tournament. Mohegan Sun in Uncasville already hosts the women’s tournament. Just as the rumors swirl surrounding Ollie, there are just as many surrounding the University’s possible move to a power conference, with the ACC and Big Ten routinely mentioned in the conversation. Moving the men’s tournament to Hartford is the Conference’s way, in part, of saying “Please stay”.
Coming and going
The University says good-bye to senior Shabazz Napier, who will be drafted into the pro’s sporting two Championship rings. Napier is projected to be a late first round selection. Joining Napier in the draft will be junior DeAndre Daniels who, following a tremendous post season, decided that even with a deep draft, now was the time to go.
Ryan Boatright will be returning for his senior year and will be joined by a cast of highly touted newcomers that include NC State transfer, red-shirt guard Rodney Purvis, and a freshmen class comprised of 6’ 3” guard Sam Cassel, Jr., 6’ 6” shooting guard Danny Hamilton and 6’ 8” power forward Rakim Lubin.
Ollie has not only shown his ability to coach, but to recruit as well, luring Cassel away from Louisville after his one year stint at the JUCO level. Cassel’s dad Sam, Sr. was a teammate of Ollie’s when they played for the Timberwolves. Given that UConn will call the AAC home for the foreseeable future, job one for UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel, must be to keep Ollie on the UConn bench. Players like Hamilton have made it clear that Ollie is the reason they will call Storrs home, presumably, for the next four years.
Odds and ends
Sophomore Leon Tolksdorf has decided to transfer to American University in Washington…Center Amida Brimah had shoulder surgery and the end of April to repair a torn Labrum. Recovery is estimated to be between four and five months... Steady progress continues on the construction of the UConn Basketball Development Center on campus