Former UConn head coach and player Kevin Ollie, who was wrongfully terminated in 2018, was awarded a settlement last month of about $11.2 million after nearly four years of legal battles.
According to the Boston Globe, “Arbitrator Mark Irvings ruled last month that Ollie had been fired improperly under the school’s agreement with the American Association of University Professors, of which Ollie was a member. He noted the school had past NCAA violations in the men’s and women’s programs without going as far as firing the coaches. The school was ordered to pay Ollie $11,157,032.95.”
That amount was the remaining balance owed on his contract upon wrongful termination. It was ruled that UConn “violated the collective bargaining agreement when it terminated Ollie without just cause.”
UConn said that while it continues to disagree with the ruling, it believes it is in the school’s best interest to move on and take no further legal action, and this week it paid Ollie.
— David Borges (@DaveBorges) January 20, 2022
An elated Ollie, who played four years at Connecticut before embarking on a 17-year NBA career, addressed the ruling.
“I am pleased with arbitrator Mark Irving’s ruling which found that UConn did not have just cause to terminate my contract. I wish to thank God and my family, whose grace sustained me over the last four years.”
— NCAA (@NCAA) April 5, 2014
Ollie Was Handpicked Successor Of Legendary Jim Calhoun: He Deserved Better
Ollie went (127-79) in six years, leading the program to its fourth national championship in his second season (2014). UConn felt that it had “just cause” to terminate Ollie, but the underlying thought is that the school took that route, hoping to avoid having to pay the $10 million buyout of his contract which had been extended until 2021.
UConn had concluded Ollie committed various NCAA infractions before firing him on March 10, 2018 and hiring Danny Hurley. The program has gone on a complete downhill trajectory since Ollie’s dismissal.
In fact, his recruits “are still carrying the program”
It's 2022 and Kevin Ollie recruits are still carrying the program. https://t.co/nDgEG2YnLg
— UConn PAID Kevin Ollie (@Husky_Turned) February 2, 2022
The NCAA completed its investigation in 2019 and decided that Ollie committed a “level one” infraction. They allege he provided false and misleading information to investigators.
Most championship coaches would have been more supported by the university they generated so much money and prestige for.
The university obviously didn’t think Ollie was worth the money and didn’t value someone who had been a winning player and coach for the school and also was an extension of the legendary coach that brought the Storrs university national acclaim.
As an assistant coach in 2011, Ollie helped guide the Huskies to a record 11 straight postseason wins which included winning five games in five nights to win the Big East Tournament and winning the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 8, 2014
Staying In The Game
Ollie’s name was good in the ’hood regardless, but the termination and the NCAA sanctions against him involved made him unhirable in college athletics (three-year NCAA show-cause order).
The show-cause order, which ends in July, has definitely obstructed Ollie’s ability to get hired at another school because to do so would require a potential hirer to meet with an infractions committee. No university wants to be on the radar of the infractions committee, much less meeting with them to discuss anything that has to do with a potential head coach hire.
Despite the last three years, Ollie’s reputation and impact on a generation of basketball players at the highest level is still intact. He’s one of three Black coaches ever win an NCAA Men’s hoops national championship. Legendary coaches and social contributors John Thompson (1984) and Nolan Richardson (1994) are the others.
NBA player Kevin Durant in an interview with Grantland said that Kevin Ollie (who played for Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009-2010) “taught him the ropes,” and “changed the culture of Oklahoma City”
In 2021, Ollie was named head coach and director of player development for Overtime Elite, a fledgling professional basketball league that will launched in the fall and offers high school basketball players $100,000 salaries to shun college.
I'm proud to be joining Overtime Elite as the Head Coach. I am looking forward to building a championship connection with our players. OTE will support their growth Academically, Athletically, and Professionally. #Level5 #rare https://t.co/ZEnFyI1VYM
— Kevin Ollie (@CoachKevinOllie) April 12, 2021
Ollie Fired In March: Unethical Charge Isn’t Levied Until September
It took the NCAA six months to levy the unethical charge on Ollie. It alleged that Ollie lied about phone calls that took place between a top recruit and former UConn players Ray Allen and Rudy Gay. The charge also alleged that Ollie wasn’t truthful about what he knew concerning illegal workouts being held in Georgia. Those workouts were given by Keith Hamilton, a professional trainer and childhood friend of Ollie.
Things turned left quickly for Ollie, who had signed a five-year contract at $2.8M per before the school tried to force him out.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 22, 2014
In 2019 following Ollie’s dismissal, the school was put on probation, and he received individual sanctions.
Prior to Ollie’s hiring, the Huskies were already banished from the 2013 NCAA Tournament for three years for below-standard Academic Progress Rate scores. They had their tournament eligibility reinstated in the summer of that year.
UConn issued a statement, via spokesperson Stephanie Reitz, saying it “vigorously disagrees” with the decision.
“Indeed, in his decision, the arbitrator agrees that the NCAA’s ruling that Ollie engaged in serious NCAA violations gave UConn sufficient basis to terminate Ollie for just cause,” the statement read. “However, the arbitrator concluded that UConn should have waited the 16 months it took for the NCAA proceedings to conclude before terminating Ollie.
“As an NCAA member institution, UConn did not have the luxury of waiting more than a year before terminating Ollie for the misconduct the university was aware he had engaged in. UConn could not continue to employ a head coach with the knowledge that he had violated NCAA rules that put student athletes, as well as the entire UConn athletics program, in jeopardy.”
Back To The Future
Ollie’s monetary win has been described as “vindication” by his legal team. Hopefully, it’s a clean slate for a winning coach who has always represented men of color in a positive way. He’s also not the first big-time college coach to skirt the rules in order to stay ahead. They’ve all done it. And there more than a few people who feel he was treated more harshly by the university and NCAA because he was a prestigious Black head coach. The only one in college basketball with a championship pedigree.
Every black coach in any sports pro and college (look at Kevin Ollie) should record every conversation they have with the front office secretly
— Fire Shane Lyons (@Next9_11) February 2, 2022
Any team that’s looking for a proven winner who can lead, construct a national powerhouse and recruit with purpose needs to be in Ollie’s DMs right now. There aren’t too many national championship coaches walking around unemployed.