Kevin Ollie has coached his final game for the UConn menâ€™s basketball team. But that doesnâ€™t mean his exit from his alma mater will be fast.
The school announced Saturday that it had begun the process of removing Ollie as coach. A terse press release from UConn said it had â€śinitiated disciplinary proceduresâ€ť against Ollie and will fire the 2014 national champion coach â€świth just cause.â€ť
Itâ€™s that final phrase that may cause the sides to stage a prolonged battle. Ollieâ€™s contract is written so that should the university opt to fire him without cause, he is due the remainder of the money left on the deal, more than $10 million.
Later Saturday, in a statement released to ESPN, Ollie said that he will contest UConnâ€™s decision.
â€śThe University of Connecticut, which has been my home and my family since I was 18 years of age, has decided to initiate the procedures to terminate my employment for cause, which I am contesting,â€ť Ollie said. â€śAs the head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies, which is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life, I have always diligently promoted an atmosphere of compliance for all involved in the program, directly or indirectly. It has always been my creed to conduct myself in a manner that reflects positively on the university, my program and my family.
â€śMy objective throughout my eight-year tenure has been to nurture and develop young men to be productive citizens, positive role models and active community leaders. I am confident that I have strived to model behaviors which are consistent with this objective. This process has just begun, and I intend to work vigorously to defend my honor and my integrity, and to defend my good name to the fullest extent provided under the law, the university grievance procedures and the NCAA compliance process.â€ť
UConn is in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the program. And in laying the blame for those potential, unspecified transgressions at Ollieâ€™s feet, the school is obviously trying to avoid paying him the full amount of money remaining on his contract.
There was also a possible new issue of NCAA compliance raised in the Huskiesâ€™ finale this week in Orlando, Fla. According to several sources, players Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier were delayed in taking the court for the SMU game while the university reviewed their eligibility. Adams and Larrier apparently took part in workouts that may or may not have been in accordance with NCAA bylaws.
â€śIt is unfortunate that this decision became necessary,â€ť UConn athletic director David Benedict said. â€śAs with all of our programs, we hold menâ€™s basketball to the highest standards. We will begin a national search immediately to identify our next head coach.â€ť
Ollieâ€™s contract indicates he has the right to a hearing within 15 days of the schoolâ€™s decision. If he is not satisfied with the results, Ollie can appeal to Herbst directly. If that too produces no agreement, the sides could go to arbitration.
Ollie, 45, a graduate of UConn and a former assistant coach in Storrs, led the team to the 2014 national title two years after taking over for Jim Calhoun. But the Huskies have fallen on hard times, and lost eight games by at least 20 points this season, a first for the program.
Ollie was 127-79 in six years as UConnâ€™s head coach.
UConnâ€™s roster is certain to change with Ollieâ€™s removal, and the first domino fell not long after the coach was let go. James Akinjo, the point guard from Richmond, California who was the top-rated prospect in the Huskiesâ€™ class of 2018, asked for a release from the national letter of intent he signed to play for Ollieâ€™s Huskies.