MAKING THE FINAL CUT: Crenshaw High School alum Kevin Ollie takes the cut of net from the men’s NCAA Division I basketball championship and waves to the crowd at Texas Stadium. Ollie was released by nine NBA teams and only given a one-year contract when he was first hired as the coach U Conn. After the Huskies defeated Kentucky 60-54 to win the crown Monday, Ollie became the first Black coach in 16 years to win the championship. Associated Press Photo
From NBA Journeyman to NCAA Champion
Kevin Ollie wasn’t the best basketball player to ever play at storied Crenshaw High School in 1991 and nine NBA teams cut him, but on Monday night in his native Dallas, Texas he led the University of Connecticut Huskies to an improbable men’s Division I NCAA Championship.
Ollie, a U Conn graduate, returned to his alma mater after a 13-year NBA career where he played for 12 teams after starting his pro career in the now defunct CBA in 1995.
Few if any gave Ollie and his No. 7 seed Huskies a chance to make any noise in the NCAA tournament after being banned from post season play the past two years, but after his team defeated No. 8 seed and heralded Kentucky 60-56 at Texas Stadium they believe in him now.
Ollie became the first Black coach since 1998 and Tubby Smith at Kentucky to win the NCAA D-I basketball championship.
Roughly 18-months ago when legendary U Conn coach Jim Calhoun decided to retire and anoint Ollie as head coach there was outrage. The administration refused to give him more than a one-year contract in his first year.
They thought he was unqualified, although many white coaches are granted such an opportunity without his basketball pedigree.
Even after his Huskies won the crown, much of the credit was spread around to Napier deservingly so; Calhoun and even the U Conn fan base received more credit than Ollie.
No one on the TBS/CBS broadcast dared mention Ollie’s race or that he became the first African American in 16 years to win the prestigious title.
“We always did it together and always played as a group,” Ollie said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari’s quoted more in game day stories on line than the winning coach.
Rumors circulated before the game that one of the NCAA championship coaches would become the next head coach of the Lakers. Calipari did not deny it.
However, if the Lakers really want to improve their chances of winning they should hire the kid who played for Willie West at Crenshaw in 1991.
He’s the one who knocked out Jay Wright of Villanova, Tom Izzo of Michigan State and finally Calipari.
He’s the one who mentored LeBron James at Cleveland. He’s the one who just won the NCAA championship.