Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There's nothing like a little leverage to bring about a huge pay day. Just ask the University of Connecticut and men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie.
In just his second year as the head man in Storrs, Ollie managed to not only get his Huskies back into the NCAA Tournament in 2014 - after being banned the year before due to poor academic standing - but he took the spirited bunch all the way to the title with a championship game win over Kentucky.
Reports this week have Ollie and the Huskies putting in place a contract extension that would keep the coach and his crew together for years to come, a move that has come on the heels of rumored courting by NBA franchises looking to make a new start in the pro coaching ranks.
Ollie, an undrafted point guard out of UConn back in 1995, was the epitome of a journeyman player during his 13 campaigns in the NBA. Following a detour with the Connecticut Pride in the CBA between 1995-97, Ollie proceeded to enjoy a cup of coffee in 12 different NBA cities. He may have picked up a few cheesesteaks and soft pretzels during his three separate stops in Philadelphia alone before heading back to his alma mater in 2010 to join Jim Calhoun's bench as an assistant.
Calhoun is a legend in the Nutmeg State for bringing three NCAA championships (1999, 2004 and 2011) over the course of 26 seasons at UConn, but after becoming one of only a handful of collegiate head coaches to reach the 800-win plateau, Calhoun decided to retire from the sidelines, a decision helped along by a series of health problems. When the athletic department went searching for his successor, they needed only to look a few seats down the bench in order to pluck Ollie from relative coaching obscurity.
The choice to go with Ollie in 2012 seemed to be a safe option, one that would lessen the blow of Calhoun's departure, a departure that was not without controversy. However, there were still questions as to whether Ollie was the best man for the job given the circumstances.
Here was a man who had hopped from one team to another during his pro playing career, finding a home of more than just a couple of seasons only once - his third stop in Philly between 2004-08. Make no mistake, during his travels Ollie gained a wealth of knowledge and plenty of respect from coaches and players alike, and yet there was still the lingering question of whether he was fully ready to assume such a lofty position with one of the most successful college basketball programs of the last three decades.
Taking over a squad that was depleted by transfers and early NBA defectors, Ollie, who received just a seven-month contract at the onset, put his best foot forward in 2012-13 as he became the only first-year coach in UConn history to record as many as 20 victories (20-10). Obviously, that was a major accomplishment for Ollie and the Huskies, but one has to wonder what fellow coaches Glen Miller and Karl Hobbs had going through their minds after spending a decade with Calhoun and then playing second fiddle to someone who had ascended to the thrown without paying his dues in the traditional manner.
Fast forward to 2013-14 with the Huskies setting up to break new ground after their move from the Big East Conference to the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Against familiar foes (Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida) and a host of new league opponents (SMU, Memphis, Houston, Temple and UCF) the program finished third in the standings, but were still an afterthought when it came to the postseason.
UConn took out Memphis (72-53) and barely slipped by the Bearcats (58-56) in the AAC Tournament before bowing to the Cardinals (71-61) in the final.
Less than a week later, the Huskies were taken to overtime by Saint Joseph's in their first NCAA Tournament game, but managed to pull out a 89-81 victory. That initial scare served to galvanize the team, pulled together by Ollie and All- American Shabazz Napier.
Three weeks later, Ollie was cutting down the nets in Arlington, Texas, and shortly thereafter fielding questions about his availability outside New England.
"I love the university," Ollie professed at the New York Athletic Club. "I am not looking for another job .Of course, you listen to different things. I have two ears. But, listen, I'm not running out there soliciting any other job. I want to be at the University of Connecticut."
Ollie signed an extension of his original one-year deal in December 2012 that was to run through the 2017-18 campaign and while no one has yet signed on the dotted line, Yahoo Sports is reporting the new deal could be worth more than $15 million over five years.
Rumors, conjecture and conspiracy theorists had Ollie tagged as the next head coach at (fill in your team here) and it now appears the young coach will remain in the one place that he has called home more than any other locale during his adult life.