Little steps to the big reward: Make that an addendum to the line that escalators are for cowards.
It's funny, in way, because small, appropriate steps along the way are all that Ollie has been selling. And that's what his entire career has been about.
“Michigan State was an easy game to get up for, ESPN, whole nation watching,” Ollie said. “ ... that same intensity is what I want to continue to see.”
Ollie said Calhoun approached him after the win in Germany. “He said, ‘I love you. You're going to remember this one.' It's also over with. It's like putting your raincoat on. You've got to let it go and keep battling.”
Ollie saw some of that battle from Napier after Keith Appling's three-point play put Michigan State up by two with 5:43 left in the second half.
“I looked at the tape and the first thing I saw was Shabazz bring everybody together at the free throw line,” Ollie said. “That's what I want my leader to do. Not hang your head. Not, ‘We're done.' I knew we'd be fine when I saw that. Got our composure. Got our poise. That was a great scene.
”They hit us. We took the punch and we kept fighting. I really loved that about our team.“
Keeping with the boxing metaphor, Calhoun was Rocky Marciano. He charged in, throwing haymakers. Blood and guts flew. Ollie is a counterpuncher. He has taken the blows in life and answered back with resilience. He had to claw his way through the minors, through NBA camps and 10-game tryouts to ultimately get to a lucrative NBA deal. And he was the one Monday insisting that jet lag can't be an excuse and praised his players for not using that card, hustling, executing through the practice.
He talked about how he wants every other team to have to match UConn's intensity. He liked the defensive pressure out on top Friday and he wants to keep up the ball pressure. He also wants better rebounding. Yet at the same time he took time to praise his team for being respectful of the troops while in Germany. He said they were attentive and punctual and grasped the entirety of what our nation's real warriors endure.
”It was great to see how much they were into it,“ Ollie said.
And, oh, 12-14 hours after he got home from Europe, there was Ollie at the UConn women's opener. That's something new among basketball coaches.
”My daughter has been begging me to go to a game,“ Ollie said. ”My mother is a big fan of Geno (Auriemma) and the women. I'm a big fan of Geno, too. He's a great person. I wanted my mother to see a game live because they're leaving after the Vermont game. My daughter had a blast. I'm going to bring her to practice to spend some time with the girls.“
Yes, Ollie is saying all the right things. He's doing all the right things. In my estimation, not having the long-term contract immediately in hand will be remembered as the best thing that ever happened to Kevin Ollie. His entire being is about resilience. He proves himself one more time over the next couple of months, they sign him somewhere around Feb. 1. It'll be on his resume forever that he proved his worth one final time. He can get right at recruiting in the early spring. His supporters will be able to say, ”I told you so.“ And those who weren't convinced before will be convinced.
MCT Information Services