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It's official: UConn signs Ollie to new five-year deal

By Chuck Banning

Publication: The Day

Published May 23. 2014 4:00AM

Things can change rather abruptly in the world of college athletics.

Just ask UConn's Kevin Ollie.

When he accepted athletic director Warde Manuel's offer to replace the legendary Jim Calhoun as men's basketball coach in 2012, it came with no guarantee beyond that first season. From Day 1, Ollie had to prove to Manuel that he was the right man to lead his alma mater, one his former coach had built into one of the nation's elite programs.

Two years and one national championship later, all doubts have been removed.

Ollie, 41, signed a new five-year contract on Thursday that will pay him $15 million - an average of $3 million annually. He will also make an additional $200,000 per-year in compensation, bringing those totals to $16 million and $3.2 million per year, if he remains through the duration of the deal (May 31, 2019). All coaching salaries are paid by the UConn athletic department.

His previous deal, which was scheduled to run through the 2017-18 season, was for five years and approximately $7 million.

"I'm very pleased that we were able to agree to a new contract and that we'll be able to continue to build upon the success we've had," Ollie said in a statement released by the UConn athletic department. "It's a humbling experience to be around the UConn fans the and UConn family and to know that I am their basketball coach for the foreseeable future. I'm very proud of that.

"UConn is a special place that I love and as I've told everyone throughout the season and through all the recent speculation, this is where my heart is. This is where I wanted to be."

After leading the Huskies on an improbable run to their fourth national championship - a 60-54 win over Kentucky in the NCAA final last month in Arlington, Texas - Ollie immediately had his named linked to seven NBA coaching jobs, including current openings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Ollie spent 13 years with 13 teams in the NBA, where he earned the respect of his peers, before joining Calhoun's staff as an assistant in 2010. He was Calhoun's starting point guard from 1991-1995.

When Calhoun retired in 2012, Ollie took over the Huskies during a difficult time. They were banned from postseason that first season after failing to meet the NCAA's Academic Progress Report standards, yet he guided a depleted roster to a 20-10 record and signed his initial contract in January 2013.

What followed was simply a magical postseason run in 2014. UConn was a respectable 24-7 during the regular, reached the final of the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis and earned an NCAA tournament bid as the seventh seed in the East Regional.

The Huskies, led by the inspired play of AAC Player of the Year Shabazz Napier - a consensus first-team All-American - beat No. 10 Saint Joseph's of Philadelphia in the opening round, upset No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State and No. 4 Michigan State to advance to the Final Four, then beat stunned the tournament's No. 1 overall seed Florida 63-53 in the national semifinals before defeating Kentucky in the title game.

"It is a great day for the University of Connecticut and for Kevin," Manuel said. "Kevin has accomplished a great deal during his first two seasons as our head coach both on and off the court and I am very excited about the future of our program."

If Ollie accepts another coaching position before his new contract expires, whether it be with the NBA or another college program, he would have to pay a buyout fee to UConn. If he leaves for the NBA, he would owe $5 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016, $3 million in $2017 and $2 million in 2018 and $1 million in 2019. He he leaves for another college job, the amount would be the same in 2015 and 2016, but he would have to pay $1 million in 2017, '18 or '19.

"It's the student-athletes who have sacrificed to uphold the standards we have set at UConn and done such a terrific job," Ollie said. "I'm happy and excited to be able to continue to invest in their basketball careers and their lives."

c.banning@theday.com

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