History is made every day and is not something that can only be found in dusty library books amid crumpled black and white photos or in obscure blogs. Our history is made with every passing second and every exhaled breath. With that in mind, it is a wonder why more people have not pointed out the historical accomplishment of University of Connecticut head basketball coach Kevin Ollie as he pushed his Huskies basketball team to their fourth national championship since 1999. It goes without saying that it is a crazy rare achievement for a coach to win an NCAA championship the first time he gets a shot. The last time that happened was when Steve Fisher’s Michigan Wolverines squad defeated the Seton Hall Pirates in 1989.
As was the case with sharpshooter Glen Rice and the scoring punch he gave to Michigan, Ollie was lucky to have a steely point guard in Shabazz Napier to lead his team on offense and defense. But it was Ollie who convinced his team to lock in on defense. It was Ollie who helped Napier develop a trust in his teammates that was largely absent throughout his collegiate career. The Huskies were declared ineligible for postseason play during the 2012-13 season because of poor player graduation rates. Prior to that season UConn players were given the opportunity to transfer out of the program, and Kevin Ollie most definitely had a hand in convincing the core remaining players from Jim Calhoun’s regime to stay. That in itself is a motivational task worthy of merit and praise.
Despite all of his accomplishments, I would be remiss if I didn’t advise coach Ollie to tell all of his naysayers and each alumni member who doubted his pedigree prior to being hired, to kiss where the sun don’t shine. But that just wouldn’t be his style. He is a man who has fought hard for every basketball accomplishment he has ever achieved.
Some suspected the 6-foot-2 Ollie, with limited speed and no consistent outside shot, would ride the bench during his stint at UConn while others still could not fathom he would claw out a 12-year career in the NBA after starting out in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association. Doubters are par for the course as far as K.O. is concerned and he has learned to weather them with grace and class. Today he stands as only the fourth African-American to ever coach a Division I men’s basketball program to the NCAA Basketball Championship, and it only took him 2-years to do it. Bravo Mr. Ollie, bravo!