LA Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni announced late yesterday that he would be stepping down from his position. The move, according to reports, came after the Lakers management refused to pick up the option on D'Antoni's contract, essentially meaning he would have coached the 2014/2015 season as a lame duck.
That means one of the most luxurious coaching positions in basketball and, indeed, all of sports, has now become available.
What does that have to do with UConn? Why is it being mentioned on The UConn Blog?
Because, again, according to reports, the Lakers will reach out to Kevin Ollie to gauge his interest in the gig.
"Lakers officials intend to reach out to two of the biggest names in the college game -- UConn's Kevin Ollie and Kentucky's John Calipari -- to at least gauge their interest in the job.
… Ollie's close relationship with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant is well known around the league and bound to make the young coach of the newly minted NCAA champions a target of any team with aspirations of trying to lure Durant from the Thunder in free agency in 2016."
Certainly nothing has been set in stone, and when coaching vacancies like this pop up almost every big name is connected to the position. Included in the ESPN story just quoted is a list of other possible coaches, including guys with NBA pedigree, including Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Dunleavy, and there's a suggestion that Derek Fischer, who is currently playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder could be considered, if he wants to pull a Jason Kidd and jump from player to coach almost immediately.
What does all this mean?
Well, if you want to look at the positive, it reestablishes Ollie as one of the premiere names in all of coaching. There are only a few guys in college that consistently get NBA looks (Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Calipari, etc..) and Ollie is now on that list.
I'm not sure he needed any more help in terms of name recognition when it comes to recruiting, but being someone on the Lakers' short list, even if just rumored, can't help but help.
The negative? It's the LA Lakers. Its arguably the biggest brand in professional basketball, rivaled only by the Celtics. If you're interested in keeping your coach, having the Lakers sniff around to gauge interest isn't exactly reassuring.
Also, while both Ollie and UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel have expressed an interest in hammering out a new deal, one hasn't been announced as of yet. Does that mean anything? Probably not. Ollie has reportedly been flying all over on recruiting trips and we routinely see rumors like this surface only to have a long-term, lucrative contract extension be announced a few days later.
And even if the contract were in place, if Ollie wanted to make the move it's unlikely that would stand in his way. However, you'd rather have the money set and the terms agreed upon. That way there'd be no concern that the two sides are haggling and unable to reach common ground.
I recently wrote about the reasons why I believe Ollie will stay at UConn. I think he's a loyal guy looking for stability who's personality is almost perfectly suited for the college game rather than the NBA.
But, yeah, I'd rather not have the biggest franchise in professional basketball making phone calls to everyone's favorite UConn coach. You know he's gonna take the call. The question is, will they say anything that convinces him to jump ship?
Let's hope not.