Where I left off in the first segment of the interview, I mentioned a quote from Coach Calhoun from his playing days at UConn. This was what Jim Calhoun said….
“Kevin Ollie is what makes us a pretty good basketball team at this point. He was hurting, but would not come out. Nobody plays harder than Kevin. You can tell him what you want and he’ll do it if he can. I want him on our side.”
Kevin: “That’s what I live by. I thank Coach Calhoun for giving me the opportunity to go out there and play my four years. And being more than a coach, but being a father figure. And when I got there to campus, I didn’t have (any)body to turn to. You had your teammates and you had coach, and he always had an open door policy that we can always go down and talk to him and you know, he had an open mind about everything.
There were no topics that were off the record. He wanted to talk, whether it was on the court or off the court. And he’s always been there to give me great advice. You know, a real testament of a person is what…the real test of a person is what he does, (is) who he is.
He does it amazingly. He’s a great coach. I learned so much about the game but also about being a family man, because his family is so important to him. And growing up always wanting to have that family atmosphere which he kept and he kept around him. So he was always somebody I aspired to be like and hopefully I’m doing a good job and hopefully I’m keeping him still happy in my play and also the things I do off the court.”
I have no doubt that Coach Calhoun wishes he had ten Kevin Ollies in terms of character and commitment.
I caught up fellow UConn alum, current Celtic and NBA champ, Ray Allen on Kevin Ollie’s success…
Well, he’s been a consummate professional, even when he first started working his way into the league.
The time from when he left college to when he played in the CBA, it humbled him greatly, and as such, he’s always had a great work ethic. But he got such a humbleness to want to succeed and an ability to working harder to make it here and then to stay here.
And he’s been a great example to myself and a lot of people around me.
TH: And that is hard to do for a player that started on 10 day contracts. Ray Allen….
And that’s all about his ability to work hard, and I use him as an example to any young player coming into the league, if they want to survive.
Kevin not only played two years with Ray Allen at UConn, (Ray was coming in as Kevin was going out), they were teammates on the Bucks and Sonics.
“Yeah, Ray and I had a rapport. Actually it started earlier in that season with George Karl. He gave me a lot of minutes and I was playing back up minutes for Sam Cassell. But Sam Cassell and me started playing a lot and he moved Ray Allen to the three. So that’s where it started that year.”
Ask any former Husky about Kevin and they have nothing but respect and praise, even the ones who have really made it to the very top of their profession. The accolades roll on. Former NBA champ and current Detroit Piston Rip Hamilton on Kevin….
“Love Kevin Ollie! Love Kevin Ollie! Great guy. Great model for the University of Connecticut. Great person. Hard worker. Does everything possible to help his team win…on and off the court. Him just still being in the league just shows the work ethic we have in Connecticut.”
I say to Rip, ” You’re not alone. It seems like a lot of people have a lot of respect for Kevin.”
“I love KO. KO’s a great basketball player, and not just that, but a great person.”
What do you put his longevity down to?
“He’s a great teammate. Awesome teammate. You know, regardless of when you put him on the floor, he is always going to play the same way. He’s going to give you everything that you want.”
Kevin Finds a Home
Kevin clarified that he ‘didn’t move to a different team every year’. Frankly, he moved more than that early, then settled in, primarily with Philadelphia (again) for 4 straight years later.
“That’s why the 11 teams are kind of…if you look at it….it looks like 11 teams but it’s… I’ve been traded…. two years in the beginning, I was traded at the deadline. Two years in a row. So it was 4 teams in two years, and just the 10 day contracts, they count that as a team, so…it’s not like I’ve been with a different team every year.”
It looks like Nate McMillan, in Seattle, gave you your best shot, you were traded with Ray Allen for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason, and you two came over and I guess you kind of replaced Kenny Anderson then. 26 minutes a game is almost starters minutes. Nate must have really liked you.
Nate McMillan said this about you…
“ his attitude, his approach to the game, we were alike that way. When he comes into practice, he is strictly business. There is no goofing off about him at all. He is always focused on improving. Defensively, he’s solid. And he has an average shot, I guess, like mine.”
I say to Kevin…..”I mean….. those are nice accolades.”
(chuckling) “Yeah. Yeah, that’s great that Nate would say that. (Still chuckling) Actually he had a (much) better shot than mine. I remember that, as a Laker fan growing up. But it’s just great to see him say things about me like that.
Like I say, I give honor to God for giving me that ability and that spirit and trying to being humble. And I just thank Him for everything. And I live by the motto, “Be not simply good, but be good for something.”
You know, a lot of people can be good. But can you be good for something? I model myself each and every day to just go in there and try to be the best person I can be, and represent my name and that’s Ollie. (That means for) who my parents and family are, and just honor everybody and be good for something, and that’s living for Christ.”
That helps give you motivation above and beyond the day to day stuff, and survive the ups and downs of life and the NBA with a positive attitude, I’m assuming?
So Kevin Ollie looks to a higher source for his purpose and strength. I wondered whether to put that in, but I believe that it contributes to understanding Kevin Ollie. It’s valid.
In part three, Kevin talks about Larry Brown and his long relationship with Philly….and where his future might head.