City Sports Report

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, the definition of a leader

aac media day

As the head coach of the defending men’s national champions, Kevin Ollie is aware of the target on his team’s back this season.

UConn went into the 2014-15 season voted to finish No. 1 in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll. They have the preseason player of the year, senior Ryan Boatright, along with the responsibility of carrying the banner for a new league in pursuit of national recognition. The Huskies are no longer the hunters, they are now the hunted.

Strong leadership has been a calling card for UConn’s success. Ollie was an assistant under Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun, before that he played 13 years in the NBA, earning the respect of peers for his professionalism and work ethic. In just Ollie’s second year as the Huskies head coach, he led them on an unexpected run to the national championship.

I attended, along with several other area reporters, the 2014 AAC Media Day at the New York Athletic Club in October. I asked Ollie for his definition of a leader, he offered his insight on that, as well as Boatright’s emergence as the floor leader for this year’s team.

The definition I have, it’s no secret to it, it’s about self-correcting yourself … saying i made a mistake and being able to move on from that. It’s also accepting challenges and giving challenges as a leader — doing all the small things. The third component is listening. As a leader, the best leaders are the ones that listen the most, they not only gain knowledge they apply knowledge.

I think that’s what Ryan’s doing with his leadership, he’s gaining a lot of knowledge but he’s applying it to his everyday life. When we tell Ryan to do something or Ryan you’re doing something wrong, he takes that and he values that and I think the biggest thing is he’s self-correcting himself now. That’s the number one thing I think any leader is supposed to do.

Last season, the Huskies were led on the court by Shabazz Napier, the first-team All-American point guard has graduated and is now in the NBA. The leadership duties are now in Boatright’s hands, he’s UConn’s lone senior this year. The Huskies are off to a 3-1 start in the season, most recently, suffering their first setback to West Virginia, a 78-68 loss in Puerto Rico. Boatright is off to a fast start, averaging 20.0 points along with 4.5 assists, UConn will need this to continue as the schedule gets closer to league play.

UConn has it’s hands full in the AAC conference this season, Louisville has moved on to the ACC, however Larry Brown’s SMU team beat the Huskies twice last season, they’re projected to provide the toughest challenge to Ollie’s team in the conference.

When asked at Media Day for his thoughts on the AAC looking to establish itself as a power conference, Ollie’s response was “How much power do you need?”. While his response may have been to answer with a rhetorical question, it also shows he’s accepting of the responsibility his team carries for the conference this season. The AAC is still a young conference, however they have the defending national champions carrying the banner for them this season.

Kevin Ollie would have it no other way, challenge accepted, challenge given.

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