Two coaches chasing validation

Different is what Kevin Ollie is, of course. Different mostly from Jim Calhoun. There is certainly less pressure riding on a second-year coach who inherited a team with a postseason ban and a fleeing roster. No one expected miracles out of Ollie this quickly, so if there is such a thing as a national championship mulligan, he gets it.

For Ollie, this game isn't so much about what he can gain as what he can lose.

Namely the lingering old coach.

Calhoun doesn't necessarily have to actually go away, but his omnipresence in the stands, locker room and court does tend to eclipse some of his successor's light. It makes sense, of course. Calhoun is the Hall of Famer whom most of the guys on this UConn roster came to Storrs, Conn., to play for.

Ollie is understandably and rightfully respectful to Calhoun. He credits the man with most of his successes because it was, after all, Calhoun who recruited him out of Los Angeles, Calhoun who gave him a chance as an assistant coach and Calhoun who all but strong-armed him into an interim coaching gig that became a head-coaching job.

But this is Ollie's show now and it's time he stops being treated like the understudy. This national championship game is his chance. More people thought he was the wrong hire than the right one two years ago, an unproven coach in over his head, maybe even a puppet who would allow Calhoun to still pull the strings.

Certainly (hopefully?) no one believes that anymore. If this run has done anything, it has quelled the last lingering strains of Ollie's critics.

Still, it is one thing to be accepted and another to be adored. Ollie doesn't care about adulation, but a coach who wins a national championship is no one's understudy or wingman.

A title for him wouldn't prove anything. It wouldn't solve the riddle of life or carry any great meaning beyond what it would be -- a national championship.

But it would be a validation for him, just as it would be for Calipari.

And that is no small thing.

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