LaFleur: 'I Never Felt Eclipsed or Pushed Out' at UConn
Contrary to popular belief, LaFleur says he didn't leave UConn because he felt he had been passed over by Kevin Ollie on the UConn coaching depth chart. It all came about at last year's Final Four in Houston, when he sat down with Cooley shortly after Cooley had left Fairfield to become PC's new head coach.
"It wasn't something I was even thinking about," LaFleur said. "I was trying to position myself for a few head coaching jobs, and I talked to Ed to see if I could get in the mix for (the Fairfield) job. He told me they wanted to go with a sitting head coach, and Ed and I just started talking from there."
LaFleur left UConn shortly after the Huskies' national championship game over Butler. In fact, he missed the championship parade in Hartford as he readied to take over his new position.
"I was thinking maybe it was time for a change, for different responsibilities," LaFleur said. "I had been at UConn for a while."
Although Jim Calhoun didn't appear very happy about LaFleur's departure the day of the parade, LaFleur insists that Calhoun "understood."
"It should be the goal of every assistant coach to do your job somewhere and one day, have the opportunity to run your own program," LaFleur said. "This seemed like an opportunity to do that someday."
Popular opinion was that LaFleur felt eclipsed by Ollie, the first-year assistant coach who drew raves for his recruiting and inspirational leadership with last year's team. LaFleur insists that's not the case.
"I never felt eclipsed or pushed out by anybody," he said. "I learned a lot from Kevin and from Glen Miller (who took over LaFleur's assistant job). On the court, Kevin brought a lot to the table with drills and practice things from his NBA experience. And I thought Glen was one of the best X's and O's guys ever as a UConn assistant coach."
LaFleur said he still has the same type of recruiting responsibilities as he did at UConn, but now has a lot more responsibilities on the court, with scouting, game preparation, etc.
LaFleur, who last saw Calhoun at the Hoops Hall Classic in mid-January, says he's been rooting for UConn all year. That ends Tuesday night, however, when the Huskies face PC at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence.
"For one game, 40 minutes, we'll be trying to beat them," he said. "The atmosphere is going to be tremendous. Historically, UConn at Providence has not been an easy out."
But he added that he still hasn't counted UConn out for this season just yet.
"I still think they're capable of catching fire," he said. "There's too much talent there."