Growing up in Connecticut, not exactly the Mecca of sports(but sports broadcasting maybe?), There were two teams to root for, The Uconn Huskies and The Whalers(RIP). Not much to cling on besides teams representing surrounding states because well fuck me I’m from Connecticut. But god UCONN was great.
Starting in 1995 when Ray Allen put the team on his back vs the likes of Allen Iverson from Georgetown. Then the buzz really started picking up steam in 1999 when they beat Duke in the National Championship. Rip Hamilton, Khalid El Amin, Jake Voskuhl,Ricky Moore, just a gritty win against one of the premier college programs to put UCONN on the map, with some of the best on ball defense you will ever see from Ricky Moore and Rip Hamilton. And just looking at El Amin’s fat ass run up the court makes me laugh “WE SHOCKED THE WORLD”.
Fast forward 5 years to 2004 Emeka Okafor and Diana Taurasi on the cover of sports illustrated before the season started. Emeka was a powerhouse, combining size and touch with an unbeatable motor and great defensive prowess. He and Ben Gordon plowed through the NCAA tournament until they reached Duke. This was the real National Championship. The first half looked grim. Jj Reddick pushing off defenders getting those famous Duke no calls. But the second half, Emeka took over and put the team on his back. 18 points in the second half. He just kept chipping away at Dukes lead until the result was a win. Unbelievable! Then went on to blow of Georgia Tech and that big ass ginger head Luke Schenscher.
Now we pick up in 2011, Uconn was on a historic run from sweeping the Big East tournament which was highlighted by Kembas game winner vs Pittsburgh. It’s April 2nd and Uconn is in the Final Four against Kentucky. And it just so happens to be my 21st birthday. My friends and I went to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and I got fucking hammered and lost all my money on blackjack because after the game I was so drunk I went to the 50 dollar a hand table and lost my money in .3 seconds. Whatever! It was fun! And Uconn dominated with great guard play from Kemba da god, Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb. On to the Championship. We worked Butler like a jv team. Sorry Brad Stevens!
The next one with Napier in 2014 was completely unexpected and just a cherry on top of a great 15 years of basketball.
Four years later. What the Fuck Happened?! Jim Calhoun the fiery recruiting genius who found many of his players by digging deeper than any other coach. Using great defense and guard play to overwhelm even the best opponents. Calhoun also groomed players to play to their potential. Hilton Armstrong was a stick bug who didn’t have a post move as a freshman and by year 4 he was a yolked big man who could shoot from far away. Kemba went from playground baller to the king of college basketball.
Ollie just isn’t that. He isn’t a motivator, he’s good at scouting, he’s a former NBA player who is a more of a players coach then a play calling guru. He hasn’t groomed the multitude of talent he was recruited into any form of a championship team. Consistently getting top tier talent like Jalen Adams and others. But the fire is not there. Maybe it’s the one and done’s that have doomed us all to be at the mercy of great programs. Maybe it’s the fact that teams are paying players and UCONN is behind the curve. Or maybe it’s just a lull in greatness. Either way, one NCAA Tournament appearance in 4 years is unacceptable. The destruction of the old Big East may also have something to do with it. Those were epic years with 12 teams going to the tournament from the Big East all duking it out in Madison Square Garden. Long gone seem the days of UCONN’s men’s basketball relevancy but hopefully getting rid of Ollie and bringing in someone who knows what they’re doing will bring it back to life.