Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie reaffirmed his belief that he’ll be back next season as coach of the Huskies despite the program coming off its worst season since 1986.
Following an 80-73 first-round loss to SMU in the American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday, Ollie was asked if he believes he’ll be back to coach the program in 2019.
“Yes,” Ollie said emphatically.
The loss to the Mustangs dropped UConn to 14-18. It was the second consecutive losing season under Ollie, who wrapped up his sixth year in charge of the program.
Speculation has grown lately that this could be the final season for Ollie, who has four years left on his current contract which runs through 2021, despite winning a national title during his tenure.
“I want to assess everything I’m doing as a coach and see how I can get better,” Ollie said when asked if there was anything he would do differently this season. “We don’t want to be 14-18. That’s unacceptable. We have to get better in every category.”
Tigers in turmoil
Memphis entered Thursday’s first-round action surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty following a report Tuesday stating school officials are considering dumping Tigers coach Tubby Smith and replacing him with former Memphis standout Penny Hardaway.
Multiple sources told CBSSports.com Hardaway, who currently coaches a high school team in Memphis, is actively pursuing a college head coaching job and has already been compiling a possible staff, which would include Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.
Smith was asked whether he feels he has the support of the administration following his team’s 79-77 win over USF.
“Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable, pretty confident about what we’ve done this year and how we’re growing the program and the type of young men we’re recruiting,” Smith said.
Smith, 66, is wrapping up his second season in Memphis, where he has compiled a 38-25 record heading into this week’s AAC Tournament. He has three years left on his current five-year contract and would be owed $9.75 million if let go.
Smith’s son, G.G. Smith, stepped down after five seasons as the men’s basketball coach at Loyola.
“It is part of our business,” Tubby Smith said of his son’s departure. “It’s the profession we chose and unfortunately there you are hired to be fired unless you are in some program that is unbelievable.
“I’m proud of him.”
USF AD excited for future
USF athletics director Mark Harlan said he’s excited about the progress new men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory has made during his first season with the Bulls.
“I was very candid with him about the challenge and the opportunity ahead,” Harlan said Thursday before USF took on Memphis during its first-round game. “The challenge was we knew we were going to have a roster that would be in flux. How we manage that and it was up to him to bring in some great kids and he did.”
Harlan points to the eight or nine brand new players added to the roster, everyone from graduate students to transfers.
“Competitively, we have a few more wins than before,” Harlan said, noting the team’s 10-21 record going into conference tournament action this week. That’s up from a 7-23 record the previous season.
“I’ve said since I got hired in 2014, there’s not a lot of excuses for us in any of our sports at USF. We have a beautiful renovated Sun Dome and a beautifully renovated practice facility for basketball.
“We invest in basketball and I believe strongly we have the right coach.”
Former UCF men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones was on hand for Thursday’s tournament action. Jones, who is now an assistant coach on Greg Marshall’s staff at Wichita State, was busy scouting the opposition. Jones coached at UCF from 2010-2016, compiling a 100-88 record with the Knights. He was hired by the Shockers last April. Wichita State will open tournament play Friday.