The rise of assistant coach Kevin Ollie at Connecticut has not been under-discussed. In many ways, Ollie, a Huskies fan favorite and a longtime NBA player, has emerged as something of a front-runner to succeed Jim Calhoun at Connecticut when the icon eventually decides to retire.
What Ollie's emergence means for the rest of Connecticut's staff has been less publicized. Ollie, after all, is a young upstart with only one year of assistant coaching under his belt; how would his possible succession of Calhoun effect the rest of a Connecticut staff that has undergone a score of changes -- in part thanks to the Nate Miles investigation -- in the past few seasons? And what about Calhoun himself? What if he does leave this offseason?
On Monday, we got some indication. Veteran Huskies assistant Andre LaFluer, who sounds much more like a winger for the Vancouver Canucks than a basketball coach, left his job at UConn to take an associate head coaching position alongside newly minted Providence coach Ed Cooley. According to a report from the Hartford Courant, LaFluer's departure stems from concerns about job security as well as his apparently diminished chances of one day assuming the Huskies throne.
At UConn, LaFleur didn't seem to get noticed. Much of the credit for the Huskies' run this season went to Kevin Ollie, who retired after 13 years as an NBA player to become an assistant this season, and Glen Miller, a former assistant and head coach at both Brown and Penn who returned as the director of basketball administration — effectively LaFleur's old position. The perception, the source believes, is that LaFleur is not being well-respected both inside the program and outside.
When you read the list of players LaFluer has recruited to Connecticut in his time as an assistant, you can see why that perception would really grind his gears. LaFluer played a huge role in landing Kemba Walker, who just led the Huskies to a national title, and he took the lead on talented former and future UConn recruits like Hasheem Thabeet, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and incoming guard Ryan Boatright.
According to the Courant, LaFluer was also concerned being stranded without a job in the event of Calhoun's possible retirement, which the coach has yet to rule out this offseason.
In all likelihood, Calhoun will be back in 2011, but if he isn't, LaFluer didn't seem likely to overtake Ollie or the rest of the Connecticut staff in the line of succession. How LaFluer's decision, not to mention Calhoun's, affects UConn's recruiting and coaching in the years to come may not rise to the level of fascinating for the general fan. But for any UConn die-hard fretting about life after a legend, these types of personnel moves will be crucially important.