The University of Connecticut announced Saturday that it’s separating from men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie.
The University of Connecticut men’s basketball season ended last week with a loss in the opening round of their conference tournament, with no berth into the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. It’s the first time in 30 years that the Huskies had back-to-back losing seasons.
What made it worse for Ollie was that the school confirmed back in January that it was under investigation by the NCAA.
Joe Zone, WFSB sports director, said the school wanted to fire Ollie for cause.
“I think they’re moving quicker than they would like to, but they have to because they need to get a coach in now and they can’t wait for all of the cards to play out,” Zone said. “So, I think the school is in a tough spot if they’re going to replace him and they want to replace him. The reason they want to do it for cause -- it’s all about money.”
By firing Ollie for cause, the school might not have to pay him the nearly $11 million left on his contract.
“As with all of our programs, we hold men’s basketball to the highest standards,” said David Benedict, the school’s athletic director, in a statement made over the weekend. “We will begin a national search immediately to identify our next head coach.”
The school said it won’t comment any further until both an internal and an NCAA investigation are complete.
Ollie did lead the team to a national championship in 2014, but in three of the next four seasons, the team didn’t make the big tournament. After finishing 16-17 last year, this year the Huskies were 14-18.
That’s driving attendance and overall interest down. Plus, they now play in a different conference than the old Big East. The American Athletic Conference isn’t as strong.
“It’s been obviously not quite the atmosphere that they’re used to,” said Neill Ostrout, who covers the team for the Journal Inquirer. “Attendance is down a little bit every year and even more so this year. There are myriad of reasons — obviously conference affiliation and new so-called ‘rivals’ is a big part of it. People aren’t excited to see Tulsa even though Tulsa is a good team.”
“The University of Connecticut, which has been my home and my family since I was 18 years of age, has decided to initiate the procedures to terminate my employment for cause, which I am contesting,” Ollie said in a statement to ESPN.
Ollie played for Jim Calhoun from 1991-1995. He then played 13 seasons in the NBA before he eventually took over for Calhoun in 2012.
Ollie coached at UConn for a total of six seasons.