Kevin Ollie didn’t look out of place in his coaching debut for the Connecticut Huskies.
Facing Tom Izzo and the #14 Michigan State Spartans in your first game is about as hard as it can get for a coaching debut. That’s exactly what Ollie had to deal with in the Sears Arms Forces Classic From Germany on Friday night.
Ollie’s team looked prepared and fearless against the higher ranked team. This wasn’t supposed to happen for a rookie coach facing a legend. Especially a rookie coach that many weren’t sure was even going to finish the season with the program. That opinion will quickly changed after tonight.
Replacing legendary coach Jim Calhoun wasn’t going to be easy for anyone but Ollie wasn’t going to back down from the challenge. After players transferred and post-season bans came down on the school, writing off the Huskies was a piece of cake for most media predictions. Almost expecting the school to roll over and die for the 2012-13 season.
Ollie displayed tonight that his Huskies are prepared to thrive in the role of spoiler defeating the Spartans 66-62 with Calhoun looking on from the radio broadcast desk. Guards Shabazz Napier had 24 points and Ryan Boatright with 13 points.
Ollie is well respected in the basketball community for his hard working personality and knowledge for the game and after tonight proved he was the right choice to replace Calhoun. It should come as no surprise if Ollie is quickly extended in the coming weeks. Especially if anybody saw the ear-to-ear smile on Connecticut’s athletic director right after the game.
After the win Ollie said it was all about his players because they stayed loyal to the school. He’d also say doing it in front of Calhoun meant everything because he is like a second father to him. With Calhoun offering support from a distance, Ollie has everything he needs to ensure continued success for the program in future years.
The Huskies might be the ultimate underdogs this season, but Ollie will turn them back into the big dogs in no time.