In 2012, was promoted from assistant coach to head coach, after the retirement of longtime coaching legend, Jim Calhoun. Even though, Ollie had spent two years as an assistant, and played his four years of college eligibility under Calhoun, it was still a bit of a surprise to see the University of Connecticut call on him to be its next head coach. After all, Calhoun left some pretty sizeable shoes to fill.
Calhoun’s record speaks for itself. 3 National Titles (1999, 2004, 2011), one other Final Four appearance in 2009, 7 Big East Tournament, and 10 Big East regular season titles. The coaching giant also won over 70 percent of his games in 26 seasons at UCONN.
There were definitely mixed feelings about Ollie being hired to lead the Huskies. Some experts and fans thought Calhoun’s replacement should be a guy that had already enjoyed success as a head coach. Others, wanted to give the job to a person that had been a part of the program already. A true UCONN man. Ollie, did not have the experience, but he is definitely a true UCONN man, and has now silenced any critics he may have, by beating legendary coaches like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and guiding the Huskies to the Final Four in only his second season on the job.
The Huskies are led by 4-year player and senior point guard, Shabazz Napier. He’s widely looked at as being one of, if not the best point guards in the country. His play, and this Final Four run by the Huskies is very reminiscent of UCONN’s 2011 national title run led by Kemba Walker. That Huskies team, even though they were a 3 seed in the West Region, went only 9-9 in the Big East regular season, but won 5 games in 5 days to win the Big East Tournament. That set the stage for Connecticut to win the national championship led by their All-American guard, Kemba Walker.
Napier, is averaging over 23 points per game for the tournament, after averaging over 18 points per game in the regular season. He has seemingly had more help from his teammates than Walker did. DeAndre Daniels was huge scoring 27 points in the Huskies Sweet 16 win over Iowa State. Ryan Boatwright, has also joined Daniels with double figure scoring in each of UCONN’s 4 wins in the tourney.
A balanced attack will be vital if the Huskies are to beat Florida on Saturday. The Gators, arguably have the best defense in the country led by senior point guard, Scottie Wilbekin.
The match up between Napier and Wilbekin should be a classic. It’s probably the premier match up of weekend in North Texas. The winner of that match up will probably decide who wins the game. It’s also hard to imagine the Huskies have seen many teams with the length and athleticism, that gets after you defensively the way Florida does.
Napier, has everything set in front of him to be maybe an even bigger hero than Walker was in 2011. The Gators are no doubt the overwhelming favorite in this game, but as history has shown, anything is possible. Especially, with the UCONN Huskies in the building…