A few news and notes items after catching up with UConn coach Kevin Ollie Tuesday night at Franciscan Life Center Sports Banquet at the Aqua Turf in Southington:
A NICE SURPRISE: Ollie attend the banquet – where he received the St. Francis Award – with his mother, Dorothy, who is recovering from surgery for Stage 2 breast cancer.
“She’s out of the house, so that’s a good thing,” Ollie said, with a smile. “She was excited to come here. This is probably her third time out of the house, so this is a great place for her to come with all this Franciscan life and just everybody who’s here and what this stands for. I think it will be a wonderful night for her.”
Ollie credited his mom with making him who he is today.
“She looks great,” he said. “That’s where I get my toughness from. She had a couple tough days, but she got through it. She’s a tough lady and she’s full with faith. It’s great to have her getting back to her old self.”
Even though his mom was living with the Ollie family during the season, Ollie said he couldn’t let her battle distract him for leading the Huskies.
“It was difficult, but at the end of the day life is not built on feelings,” he said. “It’s built on principles and I made a commitment to UConn and whatever I go through, I have to do my job. We ask our guys to do the same thing, so if they have a bad day or a family (thing), they have to come in and practice and play the right way. I try to live my life the same way, so I came in and that’s kind of my sanctuary to get away from everything for two or three hours. Just really concentrate on making them better basketball players and better people.”
Ollie added that supporting Franciscan Life Center was something important to him.
“This is special,” he added. “I come here every year and just what the sisters do, Franciscan life and just the Life Center and just all the different things they do, they mean so much to me. I always want to be a presence here. I thought all their players ran out with coach (Jim) Calhoun, but I guess their prayers are still working. I’m glad they prayed for us and we finally got that fourth national championship.”
ON SCHEDULING: Ollie was not sure of a few non-league opponents, but said the Huskies’ 2014-15 schedule was for the most part done. UConn is expected to open Nov. 14 at home against Bryant.
The one hold up in the schedule appears to be when the Stanford game will be played in January.
“I think we have a couple dates here and there that are still out floating, but I think we shored up everything,” he said. “Just a couple things with the Stanford game that we’re trying to clean up up with the conference and that’s the last little thing.”
Last year the Huskies played a game in Bridgeport for the first time, but Ollie was uncertain if they will be back this season at Webster Bank Arena.
“I’m not for sure, that’s a question to ask Warde (Manuel),” he said, deflecting the game to UConn’s athletic director. “We loved it down there, but I’m not for sure we are playing one down there.”
NOTES: One of the Huskies’ conference games with SMU is expected to be a ESPN College GameDay. … Ollie said freshmen Rakim Lubin and Daniel Hamilton are still expected to arrive in the next two weeks. JUCO guard Sam Cassell Jr. is already on campus. “He’s doing excellent,” Ollie said. “He’s a hard worker, very mature. He loves to work, embracing coaching, and from all things I’ve seen on and off the court, he’ll fit right in our program.”