NCAA Tournament: NBA backgrounds serve Kevin Ollie, Fred Hoiberg well as college coaches

College basketball is a coach-dominated sport. The men who rule it are mostly deeply rooted in the campus game. But a few have a different background. A few can play the NBA hand, and who doesn’t think that’s a trump card?
by Berry Tramel Published: March 25, 2014
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photo - Connecticut players Kevin Ollie speaks during a media session during the the men's NCAA college basketball tournament at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, March 21, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Harry Scull Jr.)
Connecticut players Kevin Ollie speaks during a media session during the the men's NCAA college basketball tournament at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, March 21, 2014. (AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Harry Scull Jr.)

But Danny Manning put in his time as a Kansas assistant and this season took Tulsa to its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years.

Steve Alford retired after four NBA seasons in 1991 and immediately became head coach at Division III Manchester; by ’99, Alford had Missouri State in the NCAA Tournament and he’s now got UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Billy Donovan played one NBA season, 1987-88, then became a Kentucky assistant. He was a head coach by 1994 (Marshall) and since has coached Florida to two NCAA titles.

Bryce Drew retired from the NBA in 2004, after six seasons. He became an assistant coach at Valparaiso a year later, and in 2011 succeeded his dad, Homer, as Valpo’s head coach.

“Certainly the experiences that those guys have as NBA players, the type of players they were, it’s not surprising they were preparing for life after basketball,” Presti said. “Just given the way those guys are as people, in terms of preparation, work ethic, it’s not surprising they’re both having success.”

Most NBA players would gravitate toward staying in the NBA. It’s what they know best. It’s all basketball. There’s no recruiting. No monitoring of academics. No fund-raising. Heck, it’s not a sure thing that Iowa State can keep Hoiberg or Connecticut can keep Ollie. NBA franchises will take notice of their success and their background.

But colleges can have a definite tug on some coaches. Especially their alma maters. Ollie, like most of the UConn brigade, has a fierce pride about his school. Hoiberg grew up in Ames, Iowa; he was called the Mayor as a salty Iowa State freshman sharpshooter.

And now these favorite sons meet in New York, chasing NCAA Tournament glory in that most pro-like arena, Madison Square Garden, hosting its first NCAA games in more than 50 years, an interesting blend of pro and college, just like the coaches who have brought the Cyclones and Huskies this far.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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