Kevin OLLIE. The Legend Begins.
On Monday night, April 7, 2014, millions of television sets in the United States, and in every other industrialized nation were tuned in to watch the NCAA Championship game between the Universities of Connecticut and Kentucky.
The Kentucky Wildcats were coached by John Calipari, and they were all freshmen. There were seven high school All Americans on this team, and they spent a year in Lexington, on their way to the riches of the NBA. They were the best of the best of last year's high school basketball stars, and they knew it. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Calipari would lead his team to yet another Championship.
His opposing coach was the relatively unknown Kevin Ollie. He had only two years of college coaching experience, and most people believed that he would be badly overmatched by the vastly more experienced Calipari. It appears that Kentucky had the most talented players, and more of them. How could Connecticut's Huskies deal with them?
At the beginning of the tournament, the Huskies and Coach Ollie were not expected to survive. Even the wise and gracious President Obama picked other teams to wind up as Final Four participants. The Huskies were expected to play a single game, or two at the most, and then to go home and wait for next year.
Not many people knew about Kevin Ollie, and there was not much reason for them to do so. This was his second year as a college coach, and last year the NCAA academic sanctions prevented his team from participating in March Madness. This year they were eligible for the tournament, but the odds of them winning it were extremely small.
It turns out that Ollie was a True Believer. First, he convinced himself that his team could win the Championship. Then, he also convinced his team that they could do it. That started them on their way, and the rest is history.
Ollie is a graduate of Crenshaw High School, which is located in Los Angeles, California. He enrolled at the University of Connecticut, on a basketball scholarship. In 1999, his first year there, the Huskies were the NCAA Champions. After graduating, he played professional basketball for around 10 years. Regrettably, for him, he did not have the required athletic ability. However, everyone was impressed with his discipline and his mental approach to the game.
Because of his lack of experience, he was an unlikely choice to become Connecticut's next head coach. However, he did get the job and those who were involved in the hiring, crossed their fingers and held their breaths. His hiring was not likely to have a happy ending.
However, his Huskies play their games aggressively, and with poise and discipline. They work harder and smarter than most of their opponents. They sometimes force their opposing teams to simply surrender.
Since he is around 42 years old, fans can expect to see him in the NCAA tournaments for at least the next 20 years. His future opponents will not be surprised by the tenacity of his team, although this knowledge will not help them, any more than it did Kentucky.
I expect that John Thompson and Nolan Richardson are pleased to have him join them as NCAA Championship winners.