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Is Olander deserving of a third chance?

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published September 11. 2013 4:00AM

Facts we all must digest at some point in our lives:

Responsible adulthood requires a deeper sense of obligation to things that are greater than our own self interest.

Responsible adulthood requires we fully consider all potential consequences before we act.

Recent evidence suggests that attempts to teach UConn basketball player Tyler Olander such lessons through the first 21 years of his life have failed.

UConn suspended Olander again Tuesday following his second arrest in six months. State police charged Olander with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and driving without a license near campus Saturday at 10:49 p.m.

Olander failed standardized field sobriety tests, the police report said.

Last March, Olander was arrested in Florida during spring break after refusing to leave private property, despite being asked by police to do so. He was ordered to participate in a "pre-trial diversion program" as part of his court-mandated punishment, which became a nominal fine and community service.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie, irritated enough that Olander was even in Florida and not rehabilitating a foot injury, stripped Olander of his captaincy.

Now comes the question: What does "suspended indefinitely" mean this time?

Hard to say. The Hartford Courant, citing sources, reported Tuesday that "UConn coaches want Olander to put basketball aside until he modifies his off-the-court behavior and displays better judgment."

A more cynical fellow might offer this loose translation of the previous sentence: "make his life miserable until practice starts and hope he learns his lesson, because, let's face it, we really need him this season."

It works like that sometimes. Marginal players become examples for coaches and their apologists to grandstand and issue those big, bad "no tolerance" speeches. Valuable players become reclamation projects, after the absorbing, "aw, come on. You never did anything dumb when you were in college?"

If Ollie really wants to distance himself from the practices of the previous regime, he could begin by at least suggesting to Olander if he hasn't already that arrest No. 2 just imperiled the remainder of his basketball career here. I suppose you could argue that Olander's decisions indicate he doesn't care much about his basketball career here. Or maybe Ollie could scare him into future moments of lucidity.

But it should be made clearer than a bottle of Poland Spring to Olander that there is no guarantee whatsoever he ever plays here again.

Full disclosure: I believe in second chances.

But this is a third.

I believe in mercy tempering justice, as we learned in the Merchant of Venice. Note that word: mercy. There's a fundamental difference between mercy and leniency. Mercy is a reward for changed behavior. Leniency is the answer to "but we really don't have anyone else to play that position this season."

Hence, we ask: Is a month's time before practice enough for Olander to prove he's on the interstate toward getting it?

That answer should be based on Olander's subsequent behavior. Not basketball. This is not about basketball. This is about somebody in Tyler Olander's life teaching him about the deeper sense of obligation to things that are greater than his own self interest.

That's a lesson that will remain with him long after his basketball skills erode.

I have no interest in the musings of any dullard out there who points to the conduct of other institutions as a way of justifying Olander's hastened return. This is about UConn's principles, nobody else's. Nor do I care that little-used Phil Nolan and freshman Amida Brimah might be playing mondo minutes without Olander, Enosch Wolf (gone to Germany) and the NCAA still reviewing Kentan Facey's eligibility.

I don't think it's unreasonable for Ollie to issue Olander a "see you next semester." Maybe by then, the twice-arrested basketball player will have learned his lesson. Maybe.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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