In a fleeting second, the words “take the stairs” became the three most famous words at the University of Connecticut.
“Taking the stairs” is how new UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie explained the effort that his team would put in every day at practice and on game day.
The UConn men’s basketball team is ready to begin full practice for the 2012-13 season, the first season in 26 years where the head coach will be someone other than Jim Calhoun.
Fifteen practices away from their first game on Nov. 9 against Michigan State, Ollie is ready to get to work.
“Our goal this year is just to play hard,” Ollie said. “Our goal is to make sure all our opponents know that we’re playing hard each and every day and we’re going out there playing the type of UConn basketball that we’re going to make our fans proud.”
The first-year coach played for the Huskies from 1991 to 1995 and was a team captain during his junior and senior years. After retiring from the NBA at the end of the 2009-2010 season, he returned to Storrs as an assistant coach under Calhoun.
Two years later, Ollie was introduced as the head coach and he’s overjoyed.
“It’s an honor. This is where I played at. This is where I went to school at. This is where I got my degree at,” he said. “This is where I met my wife at, got two beautiful kids, this is home for me so it’s a beautiful thing and hopefully it lasts more than seven months.”
All three of Ollie’s assistants — associate head coach Glen Miller and assistant coaches George Blaney and Karl Hobbs — have head coaching experience at the Division I level. Both Miller and Hobbs were assistants at UConn before taking jobs as head coaches and both coached while Ollie was at the school. He has a lot of faith in them.
“This is a great experience for me. This is my first time through but I’ve got a great coaching staff that’s been through it a lot. Coach Blaney, Glen Miller my associate head coach, Coach Hobbs, all these guys got head coaching experience and I’m just gonna bring my philosophy in and they’re going to be there to stand me up and be my guide and be my rock and we’re gonna get this done, I really believe that.”
Despite being ineligible for the postseason this year, Ollie is expecting his team to play hard and, most importantly, represent the University of Connecticut.
“I’ve been practicing with them and we kind of established that it’s a standard that UConn basketball is all about. I want you to work hard. I want you to love your teammates. And especially love this university and it’s a pride thing to put this uniform on for this university. They understand that and they know it’s going to be tough but it’s going to be fair at the end of the day,” he said.