Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kevin Ollie's Not Going Anywhere. Yet. I Think.

By now, you're surely aware of the report that the Los Angeles Lakers plan to gauge Kevin Ollie's interest in their head coaching job, now that Mike D'Antoni has resigned. It was inevitable -- and, in fact, something that's been rumored for a while now, before D'Antoni left the position. And it will be something we'll be hearing a lot more of, not just in respect to the Lakers but Oklahoma City, the Knicks, maybe even the Celtics at some point.

As I discussed with Paul Nanos this afternoon on 979 ESPN Radio, I don't think Kevin Ollie's going anywhere. At least not yet. Just as Shabazz Napier said following the championship parade a few weeks ago, and Ollie essentially agreed.

For one, the Lakers aren't exactly an ideal landing spot right now. There's the Kobe Bryant drama, and the prospect that the team could be in a rebuilding phase for the next few years. A more likely scenario might be the Thunder, where Kevin Durant is an unabashed fan. But they have a coach, they're in the playoffs, and if they have any semblance of success in the playoffs, they probably won't fire Scott Brooks.

Plus, remember, Ollie could have taken a job with the Thunder after he retired from playing four years ago. Instead, he decided to come home to become Jim Calhoun's assistant (and, for all intents and purposes, UConn's coach-in-waiting). The man values his family life in Glastonbury, where his son, Jalen, is a senior in high school who'll attend prep school next year and his daughter will be beginning high school in a couple of years. Hard to believe he'd want to leave for the Midwest or West Coast ... yet.

From that perspective, the Knicks or Celtics would make a lot more sense. But seems the Knicks are intent on Steve Kerr, and the Celtics aren't about to give up on Brad Stevens ... yet. Check back in a couple of years on that one.

And don't forget, Ollie has preached loyalty from the time he returned to UConn. He's gone out of his way numerous times praising the players -- Napier, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, etc. -- who could have bolted the program after the postseason tourney ban was announced but remained loyal to the program. It's hard to believe Ollie would leave so quickly, no matter what kind of money the NBA could throw his way.

And make no mistake, the NBA can throw a lot more money Ollie's way than Warde Manuel ever could. (Through a spokesman, Manuel has said that there is "no update" on any contract extension talks with Ollie to this point). But remember: Ollie would have about as iron-clad grip on a job as any coach in the country would have in college basketball, what with a national title on his resume after just two seasons on the job. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Ollie would or could lose his job at UConn any time soon.

The shelf life for an NBA coach, on the other hand, is a lot shorter. Go through a couple of losing seasons, particularly in New York or L.A., and they'll be calling for your head. What's a more attractive financial future: making, say, $3 million a year for what could be 15, 20, 25 more years, or making $6-7 million a year with the prospect of getting canned lurking at the end of any disappointing season? Sure, Ollie could become the next Gregg Poppovich or Doc Rivers. But for every Poppovich or Rivers, there are dozens of guys who only last a couple years as head coach.

And let's also remember: if Ollie were to leave UConn now, he'd have to pay about a $2.5 million buyout.

Kevin Ollie may well wind up head coach of the Lakers or Thunder or Knicks or Celtics or who knows who else. I just don't see it happening now. Not yet.

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