Calhoun's name invoked in Ollie's fight over firing as UConn men's basketball head coach

Published on Thursday, 19 April 2018 21:33


The fight between fired UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie and the school has reached the “airing dirty laundry” stage.

Ollie’s lawyers have decided to include Jim Calhoun, the Hall of Fame coach who groomed Ollie to succeed him in Storrs. The attorneys are strongly implying the protege is being treated much more harshly than the mentor by UConn when it comes to running afoul of the NCAA.

Calhoun’s unpleasant episodes with the NCAA were frequently referenced in an April 3 letter to school president Susan Herbst challenging the school’s March 10 decision to fire Ollie for “just cause”.

The 10-page letter by employment lawyers William Madsen and Jacques Parenteau and obtained by state media through freedom of information requests, itself includes a five-page, 36-part FOI request for UConn records.

Almost a third were requests for “all public records, documents and communication” related to Calhoun-era NCAA violations, allegations, investigations, and inquiries, including UConn’s internal disciplining of Calhoun and the legal costs the school incurred as a result of the NCAA actions.

Calhoun’s name was mentioned 11 times starting on the seventh page of the 10-page letter, which outlined the challenge to firing Ollie “for just cause”, with a $10 million buyout due Ollie at issue.

The lawyers said on the first page of their letter “it is apparent that (UConn) has already violated (Ollie’s) rights under the (14th) Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment.”

Officially, Ollie is considered suspended with pay as he goes through UConn’s internal appeal process, which included a hearing with athletic director David Benedict. Ollie is believed to be pursuing an appeal with Herbst. If Herbst rules against Ollie, the matter could go to an arbitrator. Ollie’s next step could be a lawsuit.

The public silence by both sides in recent weeks suggests there might have been talk of a settlement. But given that Ollie’s lawyers are declaring they’re prepared to dredge up Calhoun’s NCAA past, it remains to be seen if the school will dig in or relent on Ollie. As is UConn’s custom, the school is not commenting publicly on the matter.

Ollie had been a beloved figure in Storrs since his playing days in the mid-1990s. After a long career as an NBA journeyman, he returned to Storrs in 2010 as Calhoun’s assistant, and was on the bench when Calhoun won his third and last NCAA title in 2011. In the fall of 2012, with UConn about to start a season in which the NCAA banned the Huskies from postseason play because of failure to meet academic standards, Calhoun stepped down and Ollie took over, a move widely believed to have been orchestrated by Calhoun.

With no tournament berth to play for, the Huskies went 20-10 in 2012-13. The next season, Ollie led the Huskies to their fourth national title. That was his high water mark. UConn missed the NCAA Tournament in three of the next four seasons, and Ollie was fired following UConn’s first consecutive losing seasons since the 1985-86 and ‘86-’87 campaigns. The second was Calhoun’s first - and the only time he finished under .500 at UConn in 26 years.

UConn claims Ollie was fired not for losing, but because of an NCAA investigation into alleged violations, a probe the school acknowledged in January. Ollie’s lawyers also requested the school allow access to records documenting precisely what those allegations/violations are, in addition to records of NCAA rules violations and investigations into other UConn sports programs and how they were handled internally. Ollie’s lawyers are also seeking records related to the pursuit and hiring of Dan Hurley, Ollie’s replacement.

Besides UConn’s failure to meet the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate standards, Calhoun had at least two other brushes with the NCAA. One involved the recruiting of Nate Miles, who was kicked out of UConn in 2008 after a brief stay on campus for violating a restraining order. It was later learned that Miles was getting finacial help from ex-UConn student manager and aspiring agent Josh Nochimson. UConn was eventually placed on three years probation and staffers Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers were fired.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Thursday, 19 April 2018 21:33. Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2018 22:58.