Kevin Ol­lie’s case is look­ing bleak

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Front Page - JEFF JA­COBS

STORRS — To­ward the end of his first prac­tice as coach of the UConn basketball team, Dan Hur­ley was bark­ing en­cour­age­ment at his per­spi­ra­tion-drenched play­ers. They were do­ing wind sprints. Side court to side court, again and again.

Sud­denly, Hur­ley turned to­ward one end of Werth Fam­ily Cham­pi­ons Cen­ter and hoisted a basketball from be­hind mid­court.

About 60 feet later, swish. Re­ally. Swish.

Is that Hur­ley prac­tice rou­tine?

“It is,” Hur­ley said. “Like Jalen Adams from a cou­ple years ago, right? I’ll do that oc­ca­sion­ally just to re­mind them I scored 1,000 points in the real Big East.”

There was a pro­found sense of tran­si­tion Satur­day. We’re not only talk­ing about the fruits of the new coach’s pen­chant for hell­fire de­fense. Nor are we only talk­ing about a coach with a bit­ing sense of hu­mor vs. one who spoke in para­bles and es­ca­la­tors.

We’re talk­ing about an end and a be­gin­ning for UConn basketball.

The be­gin­ning, hard­core, no-non­sense was easy to see. Hur­ley, who uses no whis­tle, ex­tended a prac­tice in­tended for two hours by 20 min­utes. He wanted them to get mat­ters right. Ev­i­dently, Jim Cal­houn had stopped by ear­lier and liked what he saw.

The feel­ing of the end — oh, that hit even harder Fri­day night. There was news first re­ported by ESPN that Kevin Ol­lie and UConn have re­ceived a no­tice of

al­le­ga­tions of re­cruit­ing and var­i­ous other vi­o­la­tions. Most im­por­tantly, there is a Level I charge against Ol­lie for vi­o­lat­ing the NCAA prin­ci­ples of eth­i­cal con­duct for pro­vid­ing false or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion to the school and NCAA en­force­ment staff. In short, liar, liar, 10 toes on fire.

The NCAA didn’t be­lieve Ol­lie when he de­nied to its in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he had not planned or ar­ranged FaceTime calls with Ray Allen and Rudy Gay. Look, this was not the end of the world. Ray didn’t give re­cruit Hami­dou Diallo — whom sources con­firm as be­ing on the other end of the call — $50,000. Still, Allen and Gay are con­sid­ered rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the school’s ath­letic in­ter­est and it’s def­i­nite a no-no.

Get­ting caught ly­ing about it, how­ever, would be clas­si­fied as fab­u­lously stupid. Af­ter the na­tional basketball scan­dal of Septem­ber 2017, the NCAA made it clear it would come down hard on vi­o­la­tors and was in no mood to ac­com­mo­date truth-ben­ders. It never has been a good year to lie, but good grief, this is the wrong year to be Pinoc­chio.

The NCAA also al­leged Ol­lie falsely de­nied he knew that Derek Hamil­ton, a trainer and a friend Ol­lie al­lowed into his in­ner cir­cle, had ar­ranged im­proper work­outs in At­lanta with play­ers. While more se­ri­ous than Ray talk­ing to Diallo on FaceTime at Ol­lie’s house dur­ing a team meal, it cer­tainly was not stop-the-presses hor­ri­ble.

But the NCAA, like the feds, hates if it feels it isn’t get­ting the truth. Hates it. So it’s Level I. That’s bad, folks. Let’s put it this way: For­get Hur­ley’s 60-foot shot Satur­day. Un­less he hits a full-court shot with the ar­bi­tra­tor or the NCAA hear­ing panel, Kevin Ol­lie is screwed.

The ar­bi­tra­tor in this dis­pute with UConn must choose be­tween more than $10 mil­lion re­main­ing on Ol­lie’s con­tract or noth­ing. To­day, I’m bet­ting on the goose egg.

ESPN has been Ra­dio Free Ol­lie since the day he was fired by UConn with cause in March. Ol­lie’s camp didn’t bother giv­ing a state­ment to the state me­dia that day, go­ing ex­clu­sively to ESPN. Since then it has spo­ken first to ESPN re­peat­edly. And why not?

The ef­fec­tive re­sult had been a pro-Ol­lie spin from Bris­tol for months. Out­side the state, the nar­ra­tive is that Ol­lie got a cou­ple of park­ing tick­ets and UConn con­cocted a vi­cious smear cam­paign. In the end, how­ever, Ol­lie may have won the na­tional PR bat­tle and lost $10 mil­lion.

Would UConn have fired Ol­lie for just cause if he was com­ing off the 2014 na­tional cham­pi­onship in­stead of two dis­mal sea­sons and no real signs of im­prove­ment? Of course not.

Yet who be­yond Ol­lie and his fer­vent sup­port­ers would read the clause in Ol­lie’s con­tract and deny UConn could end his em­ploy­ment for vir­tu­ally any vi­o­la­tions it saw fit?

It was that wide gap be­tween the spirit of the deal and the ab­so­lute let­ter of the con­tract that led me to call for a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment. But now? Why would UConn ne­go­ti­ate? If you’re a state tax­payer, you’re prob­a­bly ap­plaud­ing UConn for pa­tiently, qui­etly wait­ing for the NCAA no­tice of al­le­ga­tions. That’s $10 mil­lion worth of cold cal­cu­la­tion, folks.

Ol­lie’s bud Boo Willing­ham hang­ing around too close, Hamil­ton and his train­ing shenani­gans, Danny Grif­fin and his LA con­nec­tions — KO ap­peared to pull his trusted cir­cle tight and get sloppy in the process. UConn took all the lit­tle pin­pricks and a few gouges and did a good job of con­vinc­ing the NCAA that Ol­lie had failed to pro­mote com­pli­ance. Level III com­plaints be­came a num­ber of Level IIs.

Ol­lie’s guys al­ready had all the re­but­tals lined up for ESPN nearly as soon as the NCAA re­leased its no­tice. UConn ev­i­dently was still look­ing at redac­tions when the re­port broke. Hamil­ton said Ol­lie was on va­ca­tion with his fam­ily over­seas and didn’t even know he housed Terry Lar­rier and Jalen Adams in At­lanta, fed them, given them lo­cal trans­porta­tion and free basketball train­ing ses­sions.

The NCAA al­leged that Grif­fin, former di­rec­tor of stu­dent-ath­lete de­vel­op­ment, had some im­per­mis­si­ble con­tact with a few re­cruits, in­clud­ing one at a high school. Grif­fin told ESPN he wasn’t at a game in ques­tion, be­cause his sis­ter was dy­ing of cancer at the time. He told ESPN that Glen Miller had a vendetta against Ol­lie.

The ques­tion is why would Miller, fired by Ol­lie and granted limited im­mu­nity by the NCAA, lie? Grif­fin told ESPN he has text mes­sages from Miller look­ing for phone num­bers and in­for­ma­tion that he’s ready to spill. That’s threat­en­ing ug­li­ness, but phone num­bers and in­for­ma­tion aren’t the same as us­ing him to re­cruit.

Des­per­ate times may bring des­per­ate ac­tions.

Is UConn to­tally in the clear? Maybe. Maybe not. I wouldn’t be shocked if the school got hit by some limited re­cruit­ing for a year or even a loss of one re­cruit. Yet with lawyers’ fees, PR fees, di­vorce set­tle­ment, if I humbly could give KO a piece of ca­reer ad­vice: Get a job on an NBA coach­ing staff or front of­fice ASAP. Put this be­hind you.

Asked whether his play­ers had been caught up in all this, Hur­ley an­swered, “I haven’t heard a whis­per … Th­ese guys are com­pletely obliv­i­ous. They care for Kevin and the staff they played for, but they are fo­cused on the sea­son.”

Hur­ley said the staff was more en­gaged be­cause it was busy re­cruit­ing and wanted to keep peo­ple calm. Akok Akok, pub­licly down to five schools, is be­lieved to be learn­ing to­ward Syra­cuse or UConn.

ESPN cited sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that said mul­ti­ple wit­nesses re­fute the NCAA claims that there was any sort of pre­pared call be­tween Allen and Diallo. The NCAA in­ter­viewed all sorts of peo­ple. Hun­dreds of hours of in­ter­views. So un­less Ray Allen and Rudy Gay are ready to step for­ward and say they were just call­ing Ol­lie to wish him a Merry Christ­mas and Diallo hap­pened to be there, wow, KO is go­ing to need a magic full-court shot to avoid $0 from the ar­bi­tra­tor.

Pat Ea­ton-Robb / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn coach Dan Hur­ley ad­dresses the me­dia af­ter his team’s first prac­tice Satur­day in Storrs.

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