ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s not that Kevin Ollie looked uncomfortable sitting on a stool in front of the Connecticut bench. It’s just that he looked a lot more comfortable in a defensive stance exhorting the Huskies in the national championship game.
That’s how he spent the majority of the biggest game of his short college coaching career last night, a 60-54 victory over Kentucky. On some plays, he looked like a sixth Connecticut defender.
He was wearing a suit with a tie. When he was a standout defender in college, he wore a UConn uniform from 1991 to ’95. Then it was off to the NBA for a 12-year career before he returned to the school for two years as an assistant. Jim Calhoun hand-picked him as his successor.
“Coach Calhoun, the greatest coach ever, paved the way, and I just want to thank Coach,” Ollie said.
In only his second season as head coach, Ollie won it all. Steve Fisher is the only coach to win the title in his first season, with Michigan as an interim coach in 1989.
Technically, Ollie did it in his first chance. The Huskies were ineligible for postseason play last season over academic issues before he or his players got to UConn.
Missed free throws haunt Wildcats
Kentucky was 13 of 24 from the foul line and missed its final three attempts when the game was still hanging in the balance.
UConn, meanwhile, went 10 of 10.
UConn students celebrate title
More than 10,000 UConn students shook the stands inside Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., then erupted in cheers, stormed the arena floor and poured into the streets as the Huskies won their fourth national championship, and second in four years.
After the victory, students came outside and onto a plaza for a dance party in the rain. The school hired a disc jockey in an effort to keep crowds of students under control. As many danced, others were hanging from trees and throwing firecrackers.
Extra campus police and state police patrolled on and around campus, and several fire companies were on standby with ambulances. Several people were helped from the arena by paramedics, apparently with alcohol-related issues.
Calipari brushes off Lakers rumor
Kentucky coach John Calipari refused to “dignify that stuff” when he was asked after the game about his rumored interest in coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
The rumors were floated by former Kentucky star Rex Chapman on Twitter shortly before the game; he called Calipari’s departure a “done deal.”
Calipari said he already has “the best job in the country” and pointed out that the struggling Lakers already have a coach in Mike D’Antoni.
“I think all these kids are coming back, so I think we should be good,” Calipari deadpanned, referring to his freshman class, which likely will turn pro.