Could Kevin Ollie Save The Lakers?

Kevin Ollie
Kevin Ollie
Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie Kevin Jairaj USA TODAY Sports

One way or the other, Kevin Ollie should soon be able to claim his prize.

Whether it’s Monday night, when Ollie will lead his Connecticut Huskies into the NCAA championship game against Kentucky’s new-age version of the Fab 5 or later this summer, when all the rumors about him being in position to take the reins of arguably the NBA’s most storied franchise should be at the point of being able to reach fruition.

The L.A. Lakers now find themselves in the same desperate, desolate straits the Huskies were in when Ollie rode to the rescue just two seasons ago and are rumored to be hot on Ollie’s trail. For Ollie to now venture back west would be a homecoming of unrivaled proportions, as the 41-year-old coach who played 13 NBA seasons and starred as a high schooler at South Central’s Crenshaw High School.

After 26 years and three national championships, Jim Calhoun left the UConn team in disgrace — not to mention tatters — in 2012 amid scathing assessments that the program had failed to meet even the lowest, most cursory academic standards, routinely graduating less than 50 percent of its players in any given four-year period over of his tenure. Three years before that, he was suspended for what the NCAA described as “failing to maintain an atmosphere of compliance.”

Yet somehow, someway, Kevin Ollie has proven capable of riding to the rescue of his beloved alma mater in record time. Largely driven by the pride and dignity of Huskies Nation, Ollie lead UConn to a 20-8 finish in earning Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year honors in 2012, and has improved to at least 30-8 in this national championship seeking second season.

As for joining the ranks of the NBA and the Lakers, his credentials should also reign supreme. Ollie spent his last NBA season as a player teaming with Oklahoma City star forward and current leading league MVP candidate Kevin Durant. Guess which one made more of an impression on the other?

“Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us,” Durant recently told ESPN. “He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City.”

In 2008-09, the Thunder won just 23 games, the following, lone season during which Ollie joined the fray, OKC made the jump to 50 wins and, perhaps more importantly, set Durant on course to be this season’s probable league MVP.

“His mind-set, his professionalism every single day,” said Durant. “And we all watched that. We all wanted to be like that.”

At 25-52, the Lakers are struggling through one of the franchise’s all-time worse pits, just the kind of pitfall Ollie has proven himself more than capable of overcoming. With Kobe Bryant now 35, entering the final year of his current contract and clearly now the end of his glorified run, the Lakers seem to be looking for the franchise’s next big star.

They may not need to look any further than the boy who grew up next door.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.