Ollie-to-NBA rumors continue to swirl as Oklahoma City fires Brooks

UConn men's basketball head coach Kevin Ollie during a regular season game in 2015. Ollie's name as once again surfaced as a candidate to fill an NBA head coaching vacancy. (Jon Kulakofsky/The Daily Campus)

With the firing of head coach Scott Brooks, the Oklahoma City Thunder are now officially looking for a new head coach. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has current UConn head coach Kevin Ollie at the top of his list, as well as other accomplished coaches such as Florida’s Billy Donovan.

In his three seasons as head coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, Kevin Ollie has already compiled an impressive list of achievements, leading the Huskies to a 72-33 record as well as a national championship in 2014.

The Los Angeles native’s recent success has solidified his status as one of the top young coaches in the sport, and has almost immediately caught the eye of numerous NBA general managers in search of a new head coach. Last year, Ollie was linked heavily to the Los Angeles Lakers, but issued a statement insisting his desire to remain in Storrs. The Lakers went with Byron Scott instead.

After a tweet from SNY basketball insider Adam Zagoria on April 20 said that Ollie was being “seriously considered” for the Thunder’s head coaching job before Brooks was even fired, Ollie responded with a press release early Wednesday morning.

“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 in the press release. “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.”

Just as it seemed that the Ollie to Oklahoma City rumors were beginning to subside, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Brooks was officially fired as of Wednesday afternoon, and later revealed in another tweet that despite the press release, Ollie has “significant interest” in the Oklahoma City coaching job.

Ollie played for the Thunder in the last season of his 13-year career, suiting alongside current Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant has spoken highly of his former teammate throughout his career, and with Durant’s contract due to expire at the end of next season, many view Ollie as an integral piece in order to keep Durant in a Thunder uniform.

Ollie’s five-year contract, which is worth $2.8 million annually, features a hefty buyout clause that UConn will receive if he does in fact leave for the NBA. Should Ollie accept an offer before May 31 of this year, he will owe UConn $5 million, and will owe $4 million if he leaves after June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016.

Ollie is not the only high profile college coach rumored to be linked with the Thunder job. Two-time national champion Billy Donovan is also supposedly a serious candidate, and is also linked to the Orlando Magic’s current coaching vacancy.