By Ken Best

Tracking Huskymania on and off the field.

Ollie Gets 5-Year Contract to Lead Men’s Basketball Team

Kevin Ollie ’95 (CLAS) was given a five-year contract as head coach of the men’s basketball team on Saturday. From left, Larry McHugh, chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, Ollie, and Warde Manuel, director of athletics. Ken Best photo for UConn

When athletic director Warde Manuel named Kevin Ollie ’95 (CLAS) the head men’s basketball coach for the 2012-2013 season, he said that he wanted to find out if the 13-year NBA veteran could really coach before giving the former Husky the permanent job.

Over the first 11 games of the season, Manuel watched and listened as Ollie led the Huskies to a 9-2 record and worked with his young team. On Saturday morning, with all of his questions answered, Manuel made Ollie the 18th men’s basketball coach in UConn history, signing a five-year contract worth $7 million.

“This is a great day in our history,” Manuel said at a news conference just before UConn defeated Washington 61-53 at the XL Center in Hartford. “[Kevin has] done us proud and done a great job. Kevin is our basketball coach for what I hope is a very, very long time. He just turned 40 on Thursday. I hope that he can have a storied career. He’s shown that he can coach, lead this team on the court and academically. He’s the epitome of a UConn Husky.”

Ollie’s contract includes incentives for keeping the team’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) at or above 930, with penalties if the team’s academics fall below that rate, including a suspension without pay or termination if the rate is not met for two consecutive years. The men’s basketball team is currently ineligible for postseason play due to missing the APR standard in the past.

“He demonstrated to all of us that he is a genuine leader of extraordinary talents,” President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “The first time I met Kevin, I could tell that he was a special person, with proper perspective on life and on basketball. He will win and he will represent us well, everywhere he goes. As a university president, I think he has what matters most — a commitment to our students-athletes as evolving young men and a dedication to academic progress. In these vital areas, Kevin will be a beacon of excellence.”

Ollie said he intends to continue meeting the high standards established by his coach and mentor, Jim Calhoun, who retired in September following a Hall of Fame career in which he led UConn to three national championships.

“We’re going to do things well, and do them right. I’m coming here with a five-year contract. That’s what it says on the paper, but we’re recruiting for a lifetime here,” Ollie said. “My coaching staff is going to go out on that beaten path and we’re going to recruit like we’re going to be here for 20, 25 years. The standard of excellence that we have at this University is going to continue; we’re not talking about wins and losses. We’re talking about getting national championships, conference championships. When I stepped on this campus, that’s what I signed up for, to play in those ultimate games. That’s not going to stop under my watch.”