From Comcast SportsNetSTORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Kevin Ollie can win as many games, even as many national championships, as his predecessor and former coach did at Connecticut. But he can't transform the program. Jim Calhoun did that already.During his 26 seasons in Storrs, Calhoun turned a regional New England program into a powerhouse, becoming one of just five coaches to win three national titles or more. Add to that seven Big East tournament crowns and 10 regular-season championships. No wonder the 10,000 seats were usually filled at Gampel Pavilion, the arena Calhoun gets credit for building.All those accomplishments are history now. What's left are high expectations for a rookie coach.Ollie, who played for Calhoun from 1991-95, went on to a long NBA career and returned two years ago as an assistant, took over Thursday -- a choice Calhoun fully supported."Simply put, he epitomizes what we want our students to be about," Calhoun said. "When I started here we felt we could do anything and I feel that way now, everything's in place. This is an exciting time as we go forward."And a difficult one. He takes over a team that is banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments because of poor academic performances.With a one-year contract, Ollie won't have much time to show what he can do on the bench and on the recruiting trail. And his depleted roster isn't likely to add to Calhoun's stellar numbers -- 27 players selected in the NBA draft, including 13 lottery picks."We're going to attack this thing head on," Ollie said at a news conference at Gampel, where he once thrilled UConn crowds with his hustle and defense. "We have enough to do it. Coach will be there right beside me as he has always been. He's been a second father to me from the day I arrived here as a recruit and believe me, that won't change."Ollie's contract will pay him a prorated 384,615 and ends on April 4, the last day of the 2012-13 basketball season.Athletic director Warde Manuel said there's a reason it's a single-year deal."I like to win and Kevin does, too. We're not here just to participate in games," Manuel said. "I'm looking to see how he is on the sideline. How he handles decision-making, substitutions, things that are normal in a game. How does he handle losses with the team and motivate them the next day to come back and play?"It truly is a long-term plan, but I want to see where Kevin is before we extend that contract. The commitment is there. He knows it."Ollie refused to get caught up in the discussion."Everything I've done has prepared me for sliding over into that chair," he said. "I'm going to coach this team like I've got a 10-, 15-year contract. I hope it's for a lifetime. I want to retire one day from the University of Connecticut like Jim Calhoun did."Ollie will have some familiar faces on the bench since all four assistants are staying."Kevin has always been a great listener," associate head coach George Blaney said. "He's a potential superstar as a coach, no doubt about that. Sure he'll be different than Jim, but there was only one Jim Calhoun."Several former UConn players were there to see one of their own become coach.Kemba Walker, who led UConn to the national championship with an incredible 11-game run in 2010-11, isn't worried in the least."He's one of the toughest guys I know," said Walker, who plays for the Charlotte Bobcats. "Kevin's UConn just like Coach is UConn. It's not one person here. It's everybody who played here. We are a family and it will stay that way."Connecticut has never faced a season like this one.It will have its first new head coach in 26 years and he is only guaranteed seven months on the job. There are only five players returning who saw significant playing time last season. There will be no postseason play at all. Those factors should make the job as tough as any faced by a coach in Division I.Don't tell that to Ollie."I told my players this morning, It's all stairs now. No escalators,' ' he said. "Escalators are for cowards. Every day now will be one step at a time."
After four wins in a row, Rex Ryan’s employment status had been taken off life support in Buffalo and was -- almost -- good as new.
But a Sunday toe-stub in Miami in which Buffalo suffered a 28-25 loss to the Dolphins set the Bills back a bit. Now, instead of hosting the Patriots this Sunday with a chance to secure a season sweep and move into a first-place tie in the AFC East, Buffalo’s back there at 4-3 just trying to get close.
“Sure we have to learn from things, there’s no question about it, but the more we dwell on (the loss to Miami), it doesn’t help us. We’ve got a bigger task in front of us,” said Ryan.
There is a myriad of differences between Ryan and Bill Belichick but one of the starkest is Ryan’s inability to treat ‘em all the same.
While Belichick will acknowledge that some games carry more import than others -- division games, conference games, etc -- he’s not going to allow his team to poke its head up and look down the road at what’s coming next.
Ryan lets it all hang right out there.
“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan said when asked about Sunday’s matchup with the 6-1 Pats. “I mean, I could lie to you and say that it’s not important, but yeah, this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We’ve got to find a way to win this game.”
The Bills reveled modestly after their 16-0 win at Foxboro when Jacoby Brissett scuffled in the final week of Tom Brady’s suspension. The gloating was mild. Ryan acknowledged plainly that shutting out the Patriots without Brady wasn’t really shutting out the Patriots.
But there’s no question that game at the start of this month was one the Bills approached with a helluva lot more swagger than normal. The “Where’s your big brother now?” vibe of the pregame scuffle in which the Bills jostled rookies Brissett and Malcolm Mitchell as the two players took the same sideline jog Brady and the Patriots quarterbacks have done at Gillette for a decade set the tone.
And then the Bills went out and had their way. Asked about that scuffle, which resulted in fines for some Jets players, Ryan said, “Well, these two teams don’t like each other. There’s no question about that, but I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in the parking lot. You know what I mean? Then you’ve really got something to write about, but that thing was hardly a fight, I think.”
The blanking and the bullying may be talking points in Foxboro this week but they probably won’t rallying cries. Odd as it sounds, the Patriots don’t merely compete against opponents when they play but measure the day’s success on how well they performed relative to perfection. You could see after the 11-point win in Pittsburgh that there was dissatisfaction on both sides of the ball with how things went.
That fact alone will make it an arduous week of practice as much as the reality that the Patriots are playing the team right behind them in the division.
Ryan knows it’s a much different team he’ll face Sunday.
“It’s not about validating ourselves,” he said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win. In regards to who we’re playing, you know, [Brady] looks great. He’s got those two great tight ends -- they’re big. They’ve still got [Julian] Edelman out there. They’ve got everybody they had out there last time, but they’ve got their player back. So we know the challenge in front of us.”
Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while having watched the Curious George Halloween special about eight times over the last three or four days thanks to my three-year-old son.
*Alex Radulov is earning some early respect for his play from his Habs teammates and the fickle Canadiens fans, but let’s see how the whole season plays out for the notoriously combustible Russian winger.
*Zach Werenski has taken an early lead among his NHL rookie peers for the Calder Trophy, but it looks like it’s going to be a crowded field this year. Just a couple of weeks in, Brandon Carlo certainly looks like he could be in the conversation as well.
*A more mature David Perron is having greater success the second time around with the St. Louis Blues while contributing in many different areas.
*For something completely different: a really fun story of a Hollywood Reporter contributor recording the reactions of her 7-year-old son watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time. I was around the same age when Empire came out, so I’m sure my reactions were pretty similar to his at different points in the movie.