UConn Athletic Director David Benedict decided enough was enough on Friday, March 9 after the men’s basketball team experienced a first-round exit in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Benedict promptly fired head coach Kevin Ollie and cited just cause, meaning the university will not have to pay Ollie’s exorbitant $10 million buyout clause. While the fight over the definition of “just cause” is leading to a legal battle between Ollie and the university, one thing is for certain: Ollie will not be coaching men’s basketball at UConn next season. The DC Sports section discusses its thoughts on Ollie’s firing and where the men’s basketball program will go from here in this edition of the Roundtable.
Matt Severino – Campus Correspondent
The truth is, Kevin Ollie should have been fired sooner than he was. It was surprising that the program held onto him after last year when the team posted its first losing season in over 30 years. Expectations were high this year, and he simply did not meet them. Ollie was the highest paid state employee in a state that has found itself in a huge economic hole. To be that well paid and underachieve by that much is simply unacceptable. It is one thing if the team was playing competitively but was still unable to get over the hump. However, this just wasn’t the case for the past few years. When fans are no longer enthusiastic about a program with as much history as UConn, change is necessary. With regards to filling the head job, I would love to see a young, energetic coach be brought in, someone who has something to prove—just like the team.
Story Salit – Campus Correspondent
Looking at the situation UConn men’s basketball is in would probably lead many observers to believe the firing of head coach Kevin Ollie was justified. The team has suffered consecutive disappointing seasons with losing records, and Ollie clearly has lost support of much of the Huskies fan base, as well as some of the locker room. To make matters worse, Ollie does not have the recruiting prowess of his predecessor Jim Calhoun. Last year, Ollie failed to nail down five-star recruit Hamidou Diallo, who played at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut but chose Kentucky instead and also saw top-40 recruit Makai Ashton-Langford decommit from the program and later choose Providence College. Despite all of these failures, firing Ollie may only plummet UConn men’s basketball into further turmoil. The program will likely be in a rebuilding process for several years to come, and a coaching change doesn’t address all of the issues at hand. To make matters worse, several former players like Ray Allen expressed discontent with the firing, and Ollie is now challenging the just cause for his firing, which has only created an ugly situation for the university.
Andrew Morrison – Staff Writer
Ollie did a lot for the program, but he had to go. His recruiting was disappointing at best, his in-game management had become increasingly questionable and he had completely lost the support of the fanbase. But to think that firing Ollie will immediately fix UConn’s problems is shortsighted. The American Athletic Conference, not Ollie, is what’s killing the program. The conference has stripped UConn of all meaningful rivalries, it’s a geographic mess and, frankly, players want to play in high-stakes games on a national stage, and the American simply can’t provide that. Ollie was far from a perfect coach, but he has also become the scapegoat for the conference’s failures. His firing was a necessary move, but it doesn’t solve the root problem; as long as UConn remains in the American, it will be stuck under a very low ceiling, and no head-coaching change is going to fix that.