With NBA teams looking for head coaches, Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie is in a no-lose situation.
Based on all that he has said, his heart remains with UConn and talks aimed at a new contract are underway, two sources told the Hartford Courant on Friday.
A source close to Ollie also said that the UConn coach would listen if an NBA team approached him, but none have done so yet. Ollie is reportedly on the Lakers’ list of potential candidates to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned Wednesday.
It is obvious that a new contract would give Ollie, 41, who led the Huskies to the national championship in his second season, a very large raise, which a source said would more than double what he is making now. He has four years remaining on the five-year, $7.5 million contract he signed on Dec. 28, 2012, a deal that added five years onto the original one-season contract signed when he took over for Jim Calhoun on Sept. 13, 2012.
Last season, Ollie made about $1.4 million, counting his base salary of $400,000, $167,000 in bonuses as a result of UConn’s tournament run, and payment from other revenue streams. But that is far less than other Final Four coaches, or coaches with established reputations, who make $4 million or more.
Because an offer from the Lakers, or any NBA team, would likely be in the $5 million a year range, any new deal with UConn, to be competitive, would have to be worth at least double the annual value of Ollie’s current contract, which would boost it in the neighborhood of $3 million a year.
If Ollie were to leave UConn in 2014, under his current deal, he would have to compensate the school $2.55 million.
At the Final Four, athletic director Warde Manuel acknowledged that he would have to give Ollie a new contract, but did not reveal a timetable. Discussions began right after the Final Four, but with Ollie on the road recruiting for much of April, it appears that the talks are just now getting substantive.
Meanwhile, with the NBA season winding down, teams looking for a coach are attracted to Ollie’s combination of experience in the league, 14 years as a player, and his now-proven ability as a head coach. When D’Antonio resigned, Ollie was immediately included as a potential candidate - he grew up in Los Angeles. The Lakers, coming off their worst season since they moved to L.A. from Minneapolis in 1961, are in no rush to make a hire.
Ollie has affirmed on multiple occasions that he wants to stay at UConn now, and is not interested in the NBA. But he has not commented since the Lakers’ job opened.
Leon Tolksdorf, who played sparingly in two seasons with the Huskies, is transferring to American University, UConn announced Friday.
“I have enjoyed two unforgettable years at UConn and I am proud to have been part of the Husky family,” Tolksdorf said. “I never thought I would call Storrs a second home, but being at UConn and knowing my teammates has had a huge impact on me. At the same time, I am also excited to accept this new challenge in my life.”
Tolksdorf, 6 feet 8, came to UConn from Berlin, Germany, in the spring of 2012, joining Niels Giffey and Enosch Wolf, also from Germany.
But he appeared in only 24 games in two seasons, averaging 5.3 minutes, 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds. He was known as a three-point shooter but never got much chance in meaningful situations.
“Leon did everything we asked him to do at UConn, on the court and in the classroom,” Ollie said. “He came to practice every day ready to work hard and push his teammates to improve. He was a big part of our winning the national championship. We wish him the best of luck as he moves on.”
Tolksdorf’s transfer won’t cost UConn an APR point as long as he completes the spring semester in good academic standing, which is expected.
At American, in Washington, he would have an opportunity to play in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Eagles (20-13) won the Patriot League tournament this past season, earning a trip to the NCAA as a No. 15 seed. They lost to No. 2 Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
UConn has 6-8 freshman Rakin Lubin, who signed a national letter of intent last weekend, coming in, although the letter has not been officially announced. Daniel Hamilton, a 6-7 wing from Los Angeles, has signed a financial aid agreement but not a binding letter of intent. He has said he plans to enroll and begin classes at UConn in June.
Tolksdorf’s departure opens up a scholarship, which UConn could save for Class of 2015 recruits, many of whom they like, or accept a transfer student, which appears less likely.