HARTFORD, Conn. — When UConn’s Kevin Ollie has a question about coaching, he can usually just walk down the hall at Gampel Pavilion or hit the speed dial on his phone to get the answer.
Hall-of-Famer’s Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma have won 11 national championships between them, and Ollie counts both among his friends and close advisers.
“I use both of them,” Ollie said Monday as he began preparing to coach in his first Final Four. “It’s just a great relationship I have with Geno, but it’s a very special relationship I have with coach (Calhoun).”
The 71-year-old Calhoun recruited Ollie as point guard out of Los Angeles, hired him as an assistant in 2010, and strongly recommended him to become his successor when he retired after the 2011-12 season. Calhoun still attends some practices and most games, sitting now at a press table on the baseline, rather than pacing the sidelines. He helps Ollie with player evaluations, recruiting and any administrative issues he may have a question about.
Ollie said Calhoun also is in his ear reminding him not to let the job overwhelm him and to find time for his wife and children. The two shared a long embrace Sunday night in the middle of Madison Square Garden, after the Huskies 60-54 upset win over Michigan State.
“He’s just a great resource to have,” Ollie said. “And I’d be a fool if I didn’t use it.”
Ollie also bends the ear of Auriemma. The two have established a bond that never existed between the women’s coach and Calhoun. They talk almost every day. They occasional have dinner, or go golfing and pick each other’s brains about basketball.
“Both of them are different people,” Ollie said of the two Hall-of-Famers. “But they both have the same mindset, a winning mindset, a championship level mindset.”