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Mernagh: Set up for Failure? Ollie’s History Suggests Otherwise

September 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Kevin Ollie wanted a chance to coach his alma mater and now he’s gotten it…in the form of a one season contract.

Everyone has an opinion on the deal, and most fall somewhere within the range of he’s being set up to fail to the Husky roster isn’t nearly talented enough for him to succeed.

The problem with the first opinion, which seems to be the consensus, is that it completely fails to take the man into consideration. Kevin Ollie and his history suggest the opposite.

The second opinion is garbage.
But let’s start with the man in question, Kevin Ollie, and his history.

Ollie came out of Crenshaw High School in L.A., where he displayed a steely resolve to stay out of trouble off the court, but also a toughness on the court that made him an attractive recruit to then UConn assistant Howie Dickenman. Ollie was the unquestioned leader of three Husky squads before graduating. Most thought he would play overseas for a while, especially after not being drafted, before going into business or coaching. Ollie ignored the perception surrounding his hoops future and did what he’s always done. He went to work. First the CBA, and then incredibly, the NBA.

Below is the list of teams Ollie played for in his 13 year career.
97-98 Orlando
97-98 Dallas
98-99 Orlando
98-99 Sacramento
99-00 Philadelphia
00-01 Philadelphia
00-01 New Jersey
01-02 Indiana
01-02 Chicago
02-03 Seattle
02-03 Milwaukee
03-04 Cleveland
04-05 Philadelphia
05-06 Philadelphia
06-07 Philadelphia
07-08 Philadelphia
08-09 Minnesota
09-10 Oklahoma

That list represents a lot of 10 day contracts parlayed into full seasons and the value placed on Ollie’s kind of leadership inside NBA locker rooms. It’s a tale of Ollie receiving a lot of calls come spring or summer from GM’s offering employment, because they knew that Ollie’s ego was non-existent and that he’d do the job on the court when called upon. That’s being a highly respected pro. A team-first guy in a league that seems to acquire its fair share of me-first guys.

Ollie’s first year on the bench beside Jim Calhoun resulted in a national title. Talking with him in the bowels of the Garden after UConn beat Pitt on Thursday of that crazy week, I asked him if he thought that team – a team that finished ninth in the regular season – could win the Big East Tournament. He held my gaze for a second or two and responded, “I think we can win the whole thing!”

He was talking about the NCAA Tournament. And of course, they did win it all, reeling off wins on Friday and Saturday in NYC, followed by six more on their way to Jim Calhoun’s third title.

Eleven straight wins, and following the third of eleven, Ollie was already preaching that the impossible was possible.

Telling Kemba Walker he was the best player in the country. Telling Jeremy Lamb that he couldn’t be stopped. Telling Roscoe Smith that nobody could box him out. Telling Tyler Olander they needed big things from him. Telling Shabazz Napier that he was a key. Telling all of them that the workouts they’d gone through together were about to pay off. The list goes on but basically Ollie was preaching the gospel according to KO. A guy that turned one or two isolated and minute chances into a 13 year NBA career.

And about that dearth of talent?

Tyler Olander had offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Virginia, Wake and Rhode Island.

Ryan Boatright has proven he’s special and had Oklahoma, UNLV and WVU wanting him.

Napier’s played a key role on a championship team and seen what happened the following disappointing year.

DeAndre Daniels had lightweights like Duke, Kansas, Florida, and Kentucky after him and was a top-10 talent.

Phil Nolan had offers from a myriad of high majors despite a transient high school career.

Omar Calhoun had everyone offering except Kentucky and UNC.

The roster has three top 40 players, plus role players in Niels Giffey and RJ Evans.

Last year’s team had two lottery picks and went 9-13 after an 11-1 start. This team is thin upfront but so are most of the teams they’ll go to battle against. Ollie will put guys in position to score with a perimeter heavy lineup.

So what if Ollie wins the same amount of games as last year’s group or even a few less minus two lottery picks?

Who’s in a better position come April when his contract expires?

Manuel, a new AD whose signature program had success despite a coach under a 7-month contract who really couldn’t, in good faith, recruit over that time span (despite getting a miraculous in-home visit with Jabari Parker and family). All of a sudden he’s a guy who has to decide whether to extend the favorite son who everyone loves or roll the dice on someone wanting the job who’s better.

Or Kevin Ollie? A free agent coach who got a group of kids with no postseason prospects to ball out. Who now has high major head coaching experience, to go along with strong ties to the NBA, and roots on both coasts.

If Ollie has success, with his personality and experience, there will be strong interest in him.

So, you can go ahead and believe that Warde Manuel has set Kevin Ollie up to fail if you want. That’s your prerogative.
The belief here, until proven otherwise, is that this decision will end up costing UConn.

Hopefully for the Husky Nation, it will only cost them in the pocketbook when they have to dig deep to keep Kevin Ollie. Because the man’s history has proven it’s unwise to bet against him…and when you really think about it, that’s kind of what his boss has done.


June 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The opening tip of the NBA Finals is still about 40 hours away as I begin writing this and even that short span of time seems entirely too long to have to wait for the show we’re about to get.

Make no mistake about this series, it will answer many questions while raising plenty of new ones.

So lets do a little preliminary digging into this matchup, starting of course with the best two players in the league.

LeBron James has been ridiculous throughout the playoffs and became a downright killer in games 6 and 7 of the conference finals, while Kevin Durant has been a killer consistently, especially offensively late in games. The anticipation for this head-to-head is greater than any other head-to-head in several years. It will be revealing how much time each player spends checking the other as I really don’t see any “real” options on either team to put on these two studs. Battier may get a possession here or there but that won’t be effective as Durant will just shoot over him once he gets to a comfortable spot from which to do so. Bosh and Haslem may both get their turns but who’re we kidding right? The King has to check Durant doesn’t he? OKC may want to throw multiple bodies at James as well. The best bet for the Thunder is if James starts settling for, and missing, jump shots. I don’t see this happening though as I think LeBron will be in full-attack mode in the search for his first title.

Bosh could counter Ibaka’s shot blocking presence if he can pull him away and make three-pointers like he did against Boston in the clincher.

Who the hell does the Heat put on Russell Westbrook?

James Harden is another problem for Miami defensively in my opinion.

Which coach makes the better game-to-game adjustments?

Lots of questions, some of which will be answered tonight with game 1 tipping off in prime time.

My early pick? OKC in 7.

Let’s do this!


June 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Doug Ferguson

Early this month we took a look at what might possibly unfold on draft night for the 2012 NBA Draft in Picks 1-10 and who could come out as the biggest winners and losers based on how things look to be shaping up. Now we are back with a look at the rest of the 1st round and how it could go…with our best bets at those who will miss the mark or hit a home run on draft night:

11. Blazers- Kendall Marshall/PG/North Carolina/6-4/SO

Blazers need a point guard and they hope Marshall falls here….if not look for Rivers or Lillard….

12. Bucks- Terrence Jones/SF/Kentucky/6-8/SO

When all is said and done the national title puts Jones back in the lottery even after a less-than-dominating season…..

13. Suns- Damian Lillard/PG/Weber State/6-2/JR

Whether Nash stays or goes he will have to be replaced in the near future…..

14. Rockets- Fab Melo/C/Syracuse/7-0/SO

Houston looks for the best upside as we see a string of bigs start to tumble…..

15. Sixers- Meyers Leonard/C/Illinois/7-0/SO

This could be good value for Philly as the Spencer Hawes experiment has run its course…..

16. Rockets- Tyler Zellar/PF/North Carolina/7-0/JR

Shades of Sampson and Olajuwon as Houston goes a little safer with their second 7 footer in 3 picks…..

17. Mavs- Dion Waiters/G/Syracuse/6-4/SO

An aging backcourt seems to match up well with picking a very fast riser

18. T-Wolves- Arnett Moultrie/PF/Mississippi State/6-10/JR

The bust factor is high with this one….Yoda told me that….

19. Magic-Andrew Nicholson/PF/Saint Boneventure/6-10/SR

Its obvious that the Magic will be trying to replace the shot blocking that they will almost certainly lose with Dwight Howard’s departure….

20. Nuggets- Jeremy Lamb/W/Connecticut/6-5/SO

Lamb will likely slip after the subpar season he had without Kemba Walker killing it next to him…..

Additional 11-20 analysis:

Best Value- Fab Melo

Not really projected to go high, I feel that somebody with double picks will take a chance. He made HUGE strides in his skill level and ESPECIALLY in strength and conditioning in his sophomore campaign for Jim Boeheim. Just as scouts notice good play in the tournament they also notice the dip in the Orange’s play without their big man during the postseason.

Biggest Reach- Arnett Moultrie

Moultrie has been a conundrum since being noticed by scouts a few years ago. Talent through the roof but also comes with the same baggage as his post mate in Starkville, Renardo Sidney.

Most Likely to Bust- Damian Lillard

No doubt Lillard showed he can ball this past season but there are always reservations about players who just pop up on the radar as lottery picks. Its quite possible that he could go as high as 6th which would put his bust factor through the roof.

21. Celtics- Doron Lamb/G/Kentucky/6-4/SO

Although Avery Bradley is tabbed as the replacement for Ray Allen, they will still want more firepower in the backcourt…..

22. Celtics- Quincy Miller/SF/Baylor/6-9/FR

There may not be a higher risk/reward pick out there….Miller has the talent to replace Paul Pierce one day….

23. Hawks- Marquis Teague/PG/Kentucky/6-2/FR

His brother is just starting to possibly come around but point guard is still their biggest need…..

24. Cavs- Tomas Satoransky/G/Czech Republic/6-8/1991

With a couple more picks at the top of the second round this will for sure be a trade or Euro that they can keep off the books for a couple years….

25. Grizzlies- John Jenkins/SG/Vanderbilt/6-4/JR

In their search for an O.J. Mayo replacement Memphis goes in-state for one of the Vanderbilt wings….

26. Pacers- William Buford/SG/Ohio State/6-5/SR

He seems to be a consensus second rounder but its hard to believe that such a versatile, decorated player will fall out of the first…..

27. Heat- Tony Wroten/PG/Washington/6-4/FR

Miami needs an inside big and a talented guard to distribute to their scorers…..Wroten is the latter….

28. Thunder- Tyshawn Taylor/PG/Kansas/6-3/SR

They will obviously need a replacement to backup Russell Westbrook sooner rather than later and Taylor is cut from the same mold….

29. Bulls- Kris Joseph/SF/Syracuse/6-7/SR

Nothing more that the Bulls like than athletic players that can guard the wings…..

30. Warriors- Darius Johnson-Odom/SG/Marquette/6-2/SR

Just playing off the Warriors pension for undersized guards that ball out of control…..

Additional 21-30 analysis:

Best Value- Tony Wroten

At one time a top 5 player in his high school class, he only really dropped out of that due to injury. He also fits what the Heat need like a glove if in fact that is where he goes.

Biggest Reach- Kris Joseph

All the players in the final portion of the first round are good value picks as far as I’m concerned but Joseph lost some of his luster this year and most have him as a sure second rounder.

Most Likely to Bust- Marquis Teague

Teague has all the talent in the world but is definitely the one Kentucky starter that should have stayed in school. He needs big time work on his jumper before he can be effective in a major way on the pro level.


June 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Doug Ferguson

Now that the NBA has held their draft lottery, it is time to take a look at what will likely happen on draft night. Here is a look at picks 1-10 and how the order is currently shaping up to look like…

1. Hornets- Anthony Davis/PF/Kentucky/6-11/FR
Davis was the guaranteed pick of anyone who won the lottery putting a lid on one of the wildest, one in a million journeys a player has ever traveled….

2. Bobcats- Thomas Robinson/PF/Kansas/6-9/SR
Last year Charlotte took a project post player, this year they go with one who is ready to play now….

3. Wizards- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/SF/Kentucky/6-6/FR
Instability has loomed over this franchise like the dark cloud over Winnie the Pooh and his donkey and this kid is a rock….

4. Cavs- Andre Drummond/PF/Connecticut/6-11/FR
Teamed with the reigning rookie of the year Drummond and Tristan Thompson will be fighting over alley oops for years to come….

5. Kings- Harrison Barnes/W/North Carolina/6-8/SO
Barnes could easily slip further than this showing how fickle draft experts can be as he was a no doubt top overall pick to some if he were allowed tocome out high school….

Read more


May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Doug Feguson

While the rest of the sports world with an interest in the NBA continues to discuss the ‘rigged’ NBA Draft lottery that took place last night or is scouring over the latest knee-jerk mock drafts produced following the lottery, NBE will work backwards and take a look at some key players who may not hear their name on draft night, but could very well make an impact in ‘The League’ in the future.

10 Players Who Most Likely Won’t Get Drafted But Could Play in the League

Every year much emphasis is placed on the mistakes NBA executives make as nearly a third of draft picks spend little or no substantial time in the league. In pointing out a team’s faults, many times not enough credit is given to the true diamonds in the rough found in the post-draft free agent pool. Here are 10 players who may not be seen on draft night, but may be on somebody’s roster when it really counts.

- Kim English/W/Missouri/6-6/SR
English has the size to defend most wings in the league. Not only does he have the measurables needed, but he is actually a proven defender in the Big 12. The 2-time All-Big 12 third teamer could be a solid system fit for a team who runs a similar pressing style to that of Missouri. He is also very confident in knocking down perimeter jumpers out to the NBA line.
Read more

If You Love Hoops — Watch Spurs vs Thunder

May 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Okay, I give you permission…No, really, you can admit that you’re now watching the NBA because if you’re not, you’re going to miss the best basketball you’ll watch all year over the next two weeks — I guarantee it for a number of reasons.

The defensive intensity — yes they play it in the NBA despite what everybody who doesn’t watch the NBA claims.

Stephen Jackson, and the energy he exerted last night trying to bother Kevin Durant was my favorite match up of the first game of the Western Conference Finals. A game, by the way, won by the Spurs, their 19th win in a row, despite the fact that they probably played at around 78% effectiveness offensively. Think about that. The Spurs played poorly — for them — on offense but still managed to pull it together enough to score 101 points and beat the Thunder by 3.

The Ball Movement

Watch how many open shots the Spurs get, how they send their opponent’s defense scrambling after either Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili get into the lane or turn a corner off the dribble. They’ll send a simple bounce pass to a cutter, throw back to a shooter, or attack the basket themselves. Any of these decisions inevitably lead to either an open shot or a series of pop-pop-pop passes that result in an open shot. The Spurs are skilled and surgeon-like offensively (an incredible 51% on 111 three-point-attempts vs the Thunder over the last two seasons). Which leads me to the next reason why you should watch this series in particular.

POP — Gregg Popovich is the best basketball coach in the world and he has been for several years. He’s completely gone away from the style that won 4 titles and embraced a new one that gives his team their best chance to win. A lot is being made, incorrectly, in the media today of Pop’s “snarling plea” to his team to get nasty heading into the 4th quarter last night. Pop was not snarling, in fact he was rather calm and his plea actually began with the question “Are we having fun yet?” He then went on to explain to his team that this — the Playoffs and trying to win a championship — isn’t going to be easy. The “nasty” comment was meant to relate what needed to go into the effort that every single aspect of the game had to include in order for his team to come out victorious. How they needed to drive the ball extra hard, how they had to move the ball with more urgency, how they had to understand just how good the dudes wearing the other jerseys are and what it’s going to take to best them. A lot of coaches really think they’re smart. They think they’re geniuses and they’re not afraid to explain that to you. Popovich is exactly the opposite, he’s not interested in letting anyone know how smart he is, he just wants to coach his team in his way and be left the hell alone. But here’s the thing: Pop is truly that dude that all those other posers think they are. Pop could actually sit down with the world leaders in different areas and hold his own. He could really be doing anything he wanted to do in life and it’s his choice to coach ball because he loves it that much and understands its what makes him happiest. I had to laugh at a piece I read out of Orlando bemoaning the fact that Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard had missed out on their chance to be another version of Pop and Tim Duncan. I laughed because just a few weeks ago I read a profile of Duncan in SI that included the story about how Pop flew to Duncan’s home in the Virgin Islands and spent 4 days or so with his new draft pick swimming in the ocean and talking about life on the beach. It went on to explain that when Duncan was weighing leaving the Spurs for Orlando about a decade ago that he and Pop figured it out over beers in Pop’s backyard. Let’s just say I can’t see Van Gundy, and especially Howard, being able to even have a conversation that didn’t go through the media first. But yeah, they could’ve been another Pop and Duncan. Anyway, Popovich is really good, the best at his craft, and any coach worth his salt realizes that. So watch how he does it with a mixed bag of talent and personalities. Watch how his bench reacts, how the dudes not playing are standing right behind him during short timeouts. It’s the perfect example of a team, an example that’s too often missing in today’s sporting landscape, especially at the highest level. My last reason is just that, the level.

Talent and Pace

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are exquisite talents. Diamonds really. Durant is a 6’10″ scorer in the mold of, well, how about a mixture of George Gervin, Michel Ray Richardson and Larry Bird? He’s so rare, moves so smoothly with or without the ball and plays so hard that it’s really just ridiculous how freaking skilled and good he is. Plus he plays through contact and doesn’t bitch over every little call. Westbrook is a jet, a young point guard still coming into his own while being the third player in NBA history to accumulate 5,000 points, 1,900 assists and 1,300 rebounds in his first 274 games (Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson are the others). Tim Duncan is a top-10 player of all time and probably this generation’s most under-appreciated superstar. He’s got 4 titles and is working towards a 5th. Tony Parker is as fast or faster than Westbrook with the ball in his hands. Ginobili is an offensive force who flings his body all over the floor.

The pace of last night’s game was like what the Chicago Skyway would be if they gave every driver Turbo Porsches at the toll booth. It was crazy last night although a bit sloppy. Both teams will only get sharper now that the series is underway. Do yourself a favor if you dig basketball and watch.

You won’t be sorry.


April 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

According to the Connecticut Post, a href=”http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/UConn-s-Andre-Drummond-going-pro-3477403.php”>UConn Freshman Andre Drummond is Going Pro, bringing the total of underclassmen to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft to 28. Drummond joins Connecticut sophomore Jeremy Lamb on the list of early entrants. The Huskies are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2012 due to a sub-par score in the NCAA’s APR, but both player was expected to make the decision to enter the NBA Draft regardless.

WWW.DraftExpress.com has Drummond (2) and Lamb (12) both going in the top half of June’s draft.

Below is an alphabetical list of the 28 players currently declared for the NBA Draft as early entrants:

Harrison Barnes, F, North Carolina
Will Barton, G, Memphis
J’Covan Brown, G, Texas
Dominic Cheek, G, Villanova
Jared Cunningham, G, Oregon State
Andre Drummond, F, Connecticut
Moe Harkless, G/F, St. John’s
John Henson, F, North Carolina
John Jenkins, G, Vanderbilt
Perry Jones III, F, Baylor
Jeremy Lamb, G, UConn
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Damian Lillard, G, Weber St.
Kendall Marshall, G, North Carolina
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Khris Middleton, F, Texas A&M
Arnett Moultrie, F, Mississippi State
Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas
Terrence Ross, G, Washington
Renardo Sidney, F, Mississippi State
Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
Hollis Thompson, F, Georgetown
Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse
Maalik Wayns, G, Villanova
Royce White, F, Iowa State
Tony Wroten, G, Washington
BJ Young, G, Arkansas

Mernagh: Gibbs Will Return

May 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

No shock to anyone who understands how this works and how a kid like Gibbs ticks. He was in it 100% because that’s how he does everything — that doesn’t mean he would ever make a decision that wasn’t sound (he’s too smart to do that). Here’s the full release from Pitt’s Greg Hotchkiss but the most important thing to understand is Pitt will have their sniper back and everybody can re-adjust those stupid April top-25′s everyone seems to think they have to post.

PITTSBURGH—Junior guard Ashton Gibbs announced Saturday that he will withdraw from the 2011 NBA Draft and return to the University of Pittsburgh for his senior season. Since he did not sign with an agent, Gibbs retained the option to withdraw from the draft per NCAA rules. The NBA Draft Early Entry withdrawal deadline is on Sunday, May 8.

“I am extremely excited that Ashton will return to the court for us next year,” Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. “We encouraged and supported Ashton in his pursuit of NBA Draft possibilities. Ashton and I had numerous discussions dating back to last year and during the process. Anytime you are an All-Big East First Team player, the professional field is something we encourage our players to look into. Ashton is a tremendous representative for the University of Pittsburgh. He embodies everything you want in a student-athlete and has always made decisions for the right reasons. This is just another example.”

“In discussing my options the last couple of weeks with my family and Coach Dixon, I feel that it is in my best interest to return to Pitt for my senior season,” Gibbs said. “The NBA can wait a year. I look forward to continuing the success that we’ve established here at Pitt and finish my collegiate career with all of my teammates and fellow senior Nasir Robinson. It will also be extra special to earn my degree.”

As one of the nation’s top shooters and scorers in 2010-11, Gibbs earned AP All-America honorable mention, USBWA and NABC All-District honors while becoming just the ninth player in school history to be selected to the All-Big East First Team. He ranked third among NCAA Division I leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (49.0 percent), fifth in 3-point field goals made per game (3.3) and 18th in free throw percentage (88.9 percent). He also led the Panthers in scoring for the second straight season (16.8 ppg.) and also set a Pitt season record for 3-point field goals made (102).

On the year, Gibbs scored 20 or more points 12 times, reached double figure scoring in 26 of his 31 games played and converted three or more 3-pointers in 20 contests. As a sophomore in 2009-10, Gibbs was named the Big East Most Improved Player, earned Second Team All-Big East honors and was a Bob Cousy Award finalist.

A two-time Big East Academic All-Star, Gibbs enters his senior season ranked among Pitt’s career leaders in scoring (1,207 points, 23rd), 3-point field goals made (216, 4th), 3-point field goal percentage (44.1 percent, 2nd) and free throw percentage (87.9 percent, 2nd). In 100 career games played and 64 starts, he has averaged 12.1 points, scored 20 or more points 23 times and converted at least three 3-pointers in 43 games.

Pitt returns two starters (Gibbs and Robinson) and seven of its top-10 letterwinners from a squad that won the Big East regular season title outright with a 15-3 record, finished 28-6 overall, earned a No. 1 seed upon entering the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive season.

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