The NBA can wait. Kevin Ollie is staying at UConn.
Ollie, who led the Huskies to the national championship in his second season as men's basketball coach, and UConn are putting the finishing touches on a new contract that will more than double his annual income, multiple sources told The Courant on Monday.
Despite reports saying it's a done deal, it is not finalized, sources said. It is down to the "final details."
Since the end of the season, Ollie has been mentioned in connection with several NBA teams that are looking for coaches. He played 13 years in the league as a well-traveled but well-respected player and, having led UConn to a championship, has proven his ability to win as a head coach.
Once NBA team, identified by the New York Daily News as the Cleveland Cavaliers, made a serious run at Ollie last week, but he told them he was not interested. He has most often been connected with the Lakers – Ollie is from Los Angeles – but they have yet to begin contacting or interviewing candidates.
Ollie, 41, has four years left on the five-year, $7.5 million contract he signed in January 2013. He earned $1.6 million last season, including bonuses. The new contract will be worth about $3 million a year, and run five years beginning 2014-15, or through the end of the 2017-2018 season.
The $3 million average annual income would place Ollie among the top 10 highest paid coaches in men's basketball. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski earned $9.6 million last season and Louisville's Rick Pitino was paid $5.75 million. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma made about $2.15 million, including bonuses, after winning his ninth NCAA title this past season.
Given that Steve Kerr, who has no coaching experience, signed a five-year, $25 million contract with Golden State, it is likely Ollie could have commanded more than $5 million a year if he aggressively sought an NBA job. But he made clear his desire to stay at UConn, at least for now, though he said he would "listen" if an NBA team approached.
"I know where my heart is," Ollie said last week.
Ollie will likely continue to be targeted by NBA teams. Ollie's current deal calls for him to pay UConn $2.55 million if he leaves. One of the sticking points in talks for a new deal was how much such a clause would be, should Ollie want to move on to the NBA. Presumably, an escape clause amenable to both sides was determined.
Ollie also wanted certain improvements for future players, such as housing and transportation arrangements. It's not clear whether that will be included in his employment contract.
"If he gets the final details he wants, it's done," a source close to Ollie said.
Ollie spent much of April and early May on the road recruiting. Talks with athletic director Warde Manuel picked up speed last week. When Ollie, Manuel and UConn President Susan Herbst were at a press conference in Hartford last Friday, all three said talks were progressing and expressed optimism.
Though Ollie is from Los Angeles, he has lived in Connecticut nearly all his adult life. When he retired as an NBA player in 2010, he declined chances to remain in the league as a player or assistant GM and returned to UConn, where he had played from 1991-95, as an assistant on Jim Calhoun's staff. He has expressed a desire to work close to home as his teenage children grow up.
When Calhoun retired, Ollie took over the program on Sept. 13, 2012. In his first year, the Huskies were ineligible for postseason play but finished 20-10. In his second season, Ollie led UConn to a 32-9 record. In the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies were seeded seventh in the East Regional and went to overtime to beat St. Joseph's in the round of 64, then knocked off No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State and No. 4 Michigan State to reach the Final Four, where they beat Florida, the top seed in the tournament, and Kentucky, the preseason favorite, to claim the title.
Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs contributed to this story.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun