Kevin Ollie dims din on NBA chatter; UConn the safer bet — for now


Kevin Ollie just completed his third season in Storrs, Conn. (USATSI)

So long as UConn is successful under Kevin Ollie, the Huskies’ coach is going to be linked to vacant NBA opportunities.

Or even non-vacant ones.

Like what’s happening with the Oklahoma City Thunder right now. The Thunder missed the playoffs this season, the franchise’s first time doing that since 2009. Scott Brooks’ future in OKC is up in the air, Kevin Durant’s contract ends at the end of next season, and overall it’s a delicate time for the future of that franchise.

Reports from earlier this week indicate Ollie — who spent a one-year stint at OKC before retiring from playing in 2010 — is a serious candidate to replace Brooks. Durant has been public in his admiration of Ollie, a former teammate of his. Ollie was a journeyman pro who built up a strong reputation over more than a decade of playing in the league.

But he put out a statement on Wednesday morning to hush the rumors he’d be leaving Storrs.

“As I have said many times, I am proud and honored to be the head basketball coach at the University of Connecticut and I have no plans to pursue other opportunities,” Ollie said. “We are already excited about next season and I am looking forward to preparing our team to be the best we can be on the court, in the classroom, and in our community.”

It’s not a 100-percent no, but most coaches in this spot do not release this kind of a statement if a new job opportunity is likely to change their life.

It also could be an indication that Ollie’s been told Brooks is safe, or that he won’t truly, seriously be considered. Those are other realistic options. Sometimes coaches release these kind of statements — or announce they’ve “removed” their name from other job searches — after they know they’re not getting the job. It’s a way to save face. I’m not saying that’s certainly what’s happening here, but it is possible.

Regardless, for now, this is a good sign for UConn. Though the team was rocky to a point last season, it’s in good hands and still trending in a positive direction under Ollie. Any coaching change at this point would really rock the boat. UConn won the 2014 national championship under Ollie in his second season. The Huskies finished 20-15 last season and failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Ollie should listen to NBA courtings if and when they come — how could he not, really — but Oklahoma City isn’t the best situation as is. You go in, maybe lose Durant in a year and Russell Westbrook after that. From there, who knows what kind of job it becomes. He stands to be more successful and have better job security at UConn than Oklahoma City. Right now. In a year? The situation changes, no question.


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