In 1991, Kevin Ollie walked on to the campus of the University of Connecticut where he starred on the basketball team for four seasons. When the long journey of a professional career was over in 2010, Ollie returned home – back to Connecticut where he became an assistant coach and, ultimately, the program’s head coach.
He would win a national title in just his second season. Then, just four years later Ollie would become the center of a scandal for which he was fired. Ollie is now the center of an ugly fight with the school over the balance of his contract. It’s not unusual, coaches and universities disagreeing over money owed after a firing, but this is an interesting case. You see, Connecticut encountered an almost exact scenario just before Ollie was hired. There was some scandal, rumors of a firing, and then a change of coaches.
UCan Jim Calhoun is a basketball coaching legend. He spent 26 seasons coaching the Huskies program leading it to 625 wins and three national championships. Calhoun was inducted into both the Basketball and College Basketball Halls of Fame after an illustrious career. What many may not realize is how it all ended.
Seven years ago, Calhoun had signed a nice new five-year, $13 million contract. He also became the center of an NCAA investigation into some issues with compliance. A former UConn basketball manager was found to have helped guide a recruit to the school by giving him lodging, transportation, and meals.
As a result of the investigation, Calhoun was cited by the NCAA for failing to create an issue of compliance. He was suspended for the first three games Big East Conference games of the 2010-11 season and the Connecticut basketball program was placed on three years’ probation.
In 2012, Calhoun resigned and the school found him a job in ‘administration’ and continued to pay him the balance of that new contract.
UCan’t When Calhoun resigned the easy choice to succeed him was Ollie, a point guard who played for Calhoun and led the Huskies to three NCAA tournaments and an Elite Eight as a senior. Ollie’s first season was UConn’s last in the Big East. As a result of the probation from Calhoun’s tenure, the Huskies were ineligible for the postseason that year, 2012-13.
The following season, Ollie made history guiding UConn to a 32-8 record and a national championship. Like Calhoun, Ollie was rewarded with a new contract that would pay him $2.8 million per season. Roughly a year later, Connecticut basketball came under scrutiny again. Someone in the program arranged a phone call by Huskies alum Ray Allen and a recruit. Another provided meals for recruits during unofficial visits, another NCAA no-no. Yet another allegation said Ollie failed to monitor a trainer who was working out athletes in Georgia and Connecticut.
While Calhoun stepped into a turn-on-the-automatic-water-sprinkler-type job after his NCAA investigation, Ollie was fired. The school claimed it had just cause to fire him too. By claiming so, the school did not have to pay Ollie the balance of his contract.
One word. Winning. Calhoun had exactly one losing season among his 26 at Connecticut. It was his very first back in 1986-87. He produced winning season after winning season and NCAA tournament appearance after tournament appearance.
Ollie? After winning it all in 2013-14, the Huskies returned to the NCAA tournament just once, in 2015-16, and finished 25-11. In his final two years at Connecticut, Ollie’s teams went 16-17 and 14-18. Winning would have made all of Ollie’s problems go away. Unfortunately, it just got ugly.