UConn men's basketball on verge of losing season, Ollie's job in question

Published on Monday, 5 March 2018 21:19
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

HOUSTON - Unless it makes the most unlikely of runs in this week’s American Athletic Conference tournament, the UConn men’s basketball team will finish with a second straight losing season. That hasn’t happened since the 1985-86 and ‘86-87 seasons.

And for the first time ever, UConn has lost 17 or more games in consecutive seasons.

It had made many wonder about the future of coach Kevin Ollie. As an alum and a national championship winner, that may sound odd. But the preceding statistics for a program like the Huskies is odd, too.

“When you come to a place like UConn, you don’t expect to ‘hope’ to get to the tournament. You expect that’s a foregone conclusion. And right now it hasn’t been the last two years,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said Sunday before the Huskies’ game against Houston. “It’s important that we get that figured out. We need to be a tournament team on an annual basis.”

Benedict has said a handful of times in recent weeks that he plans to evaluate the men’s basketball program after the season, just as he does every year, and that includes an evaluation of Ollie.

“Last year I met with a lot of the kids. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet with all of them because there were a couple of them that left before I got to visit with them,” Benedict said. “But I’m going to sit down and visit with the kids on the team. It’s important to get their feedback directly.

“And certainly I’m going to spend a lot of time with coach (Ollie). We had a long conversation (Saturday night) that went really well,” Benedict added. “But we have to sit down and talk about all aspects of the program and how we see things moving forward.”

Should UConn fire Ollie as coach – something the school hasn’t done in 32 years, when Dom Perno was dismissed – the coach’s contract appears to read the school would owe him the full amount that remains on his contract, nearly $10 million. That obviously would give university officials and donors some pause in this time of financial uncertainty.

Benedict gave Ollie a contract extension in November 2016, a deal that was not publicly announced until the end of that season.

And there hasn’t been a great deal of evidence that Benedict plans to fire Ollie. He did not indicate anything Sunday, but he did acknowledge that the injuries to Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier the last two seasons will certainly be taken into account when Ollie’s job is evaluated.

“We all know what the standards and expectations for our men’s basketball program are. It’s clear that, unfortunately, the last couple of years we haven’t met that standard,” Benedict said. “There are certain things that impact that. Not having some of the personnel that we expected to have has definitely had an impact.”

And Benedict had praise for many aspects of the job Ollie has done off the court in recent years, specifically the players’ academic performance and graduation rates.

“Kevin has knocked it out of the park as it relates to his commitment to his kids going to class, putting the time and effort into being successful on our campus as students first,” Benedict said.

Adams banged up

Jalen Adams walked out of the UConn locker room after Sunday’s loss wearing three ice bags, one on each calf and one on his left hand.

The ones on his legs were for the cramps that impacted him slightly during the game, and the final was for a sore finger.

“Just a loose ball. I kind of jammed my thumb a little bit,” Adams said, shrugging off the injury.

Ollie said the Huskies will take a day off from practice today, giving Adams a chance to rest, and all expect the junior guard will be fine when UConn plays SMU Thursday in the first round of the AAC tournament.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Monday, 5 March 2018 21:19. Updated: Monday, 5 March 2018 21:22.