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National champion basketball coach fired for 'just cause'

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Kevin Ollie guided the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team to an NCAA national basketball championship in 2014. But the program hasn’t done much winning since.

And now, Ollie is out of a job.

The university announced Saturday it has “initiated disciplinary procedures” to fire Ollie as its men’s basketball coach, saying the move was done for “just cause,” ESPN reported.

“The University of Connecticut has initiated disciplinary procedures to terminate the employment of head men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie for just cause,” according to a statement released by the school. “The university will have no further comment on the matter until the completion of both the university’s disciplinary process and the ongoing NCAA investigation.”

The reference to “just cause” is related to an NCAA investigation launched last month into possible recruiting violations.

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“It is unfortunate that this decision became necessary,” said athletic director David Benedict. “As with all of our programs, we hold men’s basketball to the highest standards. We will begin a national search immediately to identify our next head coach.”

But the fact the Huskies have only gone to the NCAA tournament once in the four years since winning the national title likely played a bigger role in Ollie’s demise than a possible recruiting violation.

By citing “just cause,” the school would not have to pay Ollie the roughly $10 million remaining on his contract.

Ollie and his representatives will now have to decide if they want to sue the school to receive the full buyout or negotiate a lower settlement.

Was UConn's performance in recent years reason to fire Kevin Ollie?

Ollie helped lead the program to a national title in his second season as its head coach in 2014, but the Huskies have only gone to the NCAA tournament once in the past four years.

UConn finished this past season with a record of 14-18. Its season ended with a loss to SMU in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament. It was the second straight sub-.500 regular season for the Huskies.

In addition to unspecified recruiting violations, the New Haven Daily Register cited sources as claiming the school was being investigated for “impermissible workouts” involving two members of the team, Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier.

The NCAA has various definitions of what constitutes an “impermissible workout.” It could range from a workout involving a member of the coaching staff during a time of the year when coaches aren’t allowed to supervise workouts, to a player being part of basketball activities while being academically ineligible.

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“The men’s basketball program has a proud history and a tradition of excellence,” UConn president Susan Herbst said in the school’s statement. “Our goal, above all, is to ensure we have a program that UConn Nation can be proud of, including our students, alumni, fans, and all our committed supporters.”

Former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun — the man Ollie succeeded as the Huskies’ coach — said he will always admire what Ollie did for the school as a player and a coach.

“I’ve always rooted for Kevin,” Calhoun told the New Haven Register. “That doesn’t mean I’m as close as sometimes I’d like to be with Kevin. Kevin won a national championship for us, he was a terrific player for us and he’s a great UConn guy.”

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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