Kevin Ollie Talks with Gayle King on "CBS This Morning"
GAYLE KING: Well, LeBron James said this about you, that Kevin Ollie has the coaching gene. Kevin Durant said, "He taught us a mindset and professional. And all of us wanted to be like him."
KEVIN OLLIE: Wow. That's-- that's pretty awesome.
KING: What's the Kevin Ollie formula for success?
OLLIE: Oh, man, it's just a lot of hard work. It's believing in yourself. It's a pride that I gotta get better at something every time I wake up.
KING: Okay, so we've been on YouTube. We've seen that "'Cause I'm happy." You even had a thing where you did a Jay-Z brush your shoulders off, too, Kevin.
OLLIE: Yeah, we have to brush the doubters off. We always gotta brush the doubters off.
KING: Let's talk about the doubters for a minute. 'Cause you inherited a team that was on academic probation. It wasn't these particular players. But because of that, U-Conn wasn't allowed to play last year. What do you do to motivate that group of-- that group of players? Because everybody says, "We're going to win." Everybody says that.
OLLIE: Yeah, I mean, you’re exactly right. Everybody brings it in before the season, say, "One, two, three, championship." I'm not chasing championships. Championships are chasing us. I'm not doing that. I want my players to be better people, once they leave campus. Because this is a life lesson. This is more than basketball. This is life lessons that we’re trying to teach.
KING: Let's talk about unionization. A lot of college campuses are talking about it for athletes. Where do you stand on that?
OLLIE: I just think they need a voice. Whatever that voice is. Somebody needs to be talking on their behalf. You know, NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime. We have to do something for our student athletes. We have to change.
KING: Did you ever have any trepidation about stepping into the shoes of Coach Jim Calhoun? I remember Jim Calhoun.
OLLIE: I cannot step in his shoes. Only thing I'm glad that he passed me the baton. And I'm trying to run as fast as I can with it. And, you know, he's a great man. He's a father figure to me. But I gotta be Kevin Ollie. He seen something inside of me before I seen it.
KING: Before you saw it in yourself?
OLLIE: Oh yeah, even when I was a 17 year old coming from Los Angeles to Connecticut.
KING: What did he see?
OLLIE: Oh, he's seen a fighter. You know? He's seen somebody that-- you know, like, when I first got to campus, I'm a freshman. I'm playing against all these great players. And I'm like (MAKES NOISE). And I'm-- I went to the dorm after our first practice, I called my mother, said, "Mom, I’m coming home." I was crying. Last thing I heard was a click. (LAUGH) That's all--
KING: She hung up?
OLLIE: She hung up. And then-- I was like, "All right, I gotta go back, 'cause I can't go back home. So I just had to stick it out. And he just always told me, “Be the hardest worker. No matter what, just be the hardest worker."
KING: Mom did a favor hanging up on you.
OLLIE: She did a big time favor. She was like, "I sent you there for a reason, to get your degree and play basketball.”
KING: You played 11 different teams in 13 seasons You've been to a lot of different teams.
OLLIE: A lot of different teams. And I wasn't the most talented guy. So I had to watch tape. I had to-- I was playing, like, ten minutes. So I had to-- I had to make sure I knew every play, not only on my team, but the opposing team. So I had to do my homework. And when you put the work in, great things happen.
KING: Do you think that that-- what you learned as a player made you a better coach?
OLLIE: I'm so glad, when you look back at it, that I went and I was able to be around so many different players and so many coaches. Of course, when I was in the NBA, I wanted to stay in one city and have a 20-year contract and all that. But, It's good to come in the locker room. And you say, " Ollie's on one of those jerseys." So I don't care if I'm on a ten-day contract. I was on a make-good contract. Make-good contracts is-- every day, they can cut you. So I've been on all those. But that's what made me. And I'm so glad God took me on that journey.
KING: This was in the USA Today right before the tournament. Did you see this?
OLLIE: No, I didn't.
KING: Okay, this-- I thought this was really great. "Coach's pay, Kevin Ollie, $1.25. Billy Donovan, $3.9. John Calipari, $5.5. Bo Ryan, $2.2." There's a rumor that they're gonna renegotiate your contract. Should they just back up the truck? BEEP BEEP BEEP. What does Kevin Ollie want?
OLLIE: I just want the right conditions around my players. I want the right condition around them.
KING: I knew you wouldn't tell me the salary. But you are thinking, "I could probably get a little bit more than $1.25."
OLLIE: I mean, I imagine, because of a national championship, yeah. I mean, just like-- just rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. When your stock is up, yeah, I mean, it's more. But money don't move me. I played in the NBA. That don't make a man. We’re gonna sit down and negotiate. But I want the best for U-Conn.
KING: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, "Hey, Kevin Ollie, you going to the NBA." Has the NBA called?
OLLIE: No, NBA hasn't called. No.
KING: If the NBA called, would you answer?
OLLIE: No, not now in my life. Like I say, I can't never --say no--
KING: Don't let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, "Guess what? (LAUGH) So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call." There's no secret meetings?
OLLIE: No. I'm just worried-- worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. And I got three guys-- four guys is gonna graduate on time. And I want to be there for the graduation. That's actually, that's gonna be even better than the national championship. I'm never gonna say never, but I'm having so much fun. It's my dream job.