Ollie is proof of a brand that works

The Bobby Knight era of coaching encouraged discipline over everything. Ollie and his peers still demand it, but they're also willing to take the steps to close the gap and bond with their players. They're mentors and friends. They're tough yet approachable. They're professional and fashionable. They're superiors who feel comfortable enough to talk about their affinity for rap music without worrying that they'll lose respect.

Ollie prefers Snoop Dogg. Um, Snoop Lion.

But he's not one of them. He's also not some ruler sitting on a throne. And that's what the Huskies like about him.

He wants to connect with them.

"I mean, he loves us, man," Tor Watts said. "He told us in the beginning of the year that we're going to be here. And we love him. And we love each other. When we have an actual team, you can just do whatever you want on the court and we were able to get here. He's more of a bigger, older father figure than a coach because he just came out of the NBA. He's young, he's energetic. He's able to practice with us. He's able to run hills with us. ... We just try to win for him."

Before Monday's game, Shabazz Napier discussed the day he cried in Ollie's arms after a rough stretch. Niels Giffey said the coach's confidence in his players resulted in the nightly scrappiness and passion that fueled the run for the only 7-seed in NCAA tournament history to win a national title.

And Ryan Boatright praised Ollie for his willingness to relax. He said he expected his coach to dance with the players after the game. "He's like our best friend but a father figure at the same time," Boatright said. "He's gonna turn up [in the locker room]."

Ollie didn't deny that.

"Oh, yeah. I gotta break my moves out," he said. "I gotta warm my knees up first, though."

These 45-and-under, locker room-dancing, basketball-savvy, foot-stomping, advanced-stats-driven, father-figure, big-brother-like, hip-hop-listening leaders have been bubbling to the brim of a game that's still owned by a group of legends who go by mere single names or letters: Boeheim. Coach K. Roy. Self. The new breed isn't as powerful, tenured or successful -- yet. But Kevin (Ollie), Fred (Hoiberg), Archie (Miller), Shaka (Smart), Richard (Pitino), Josh (Pastner), Mick (Cronin) and Cuonzo (Martin) are next.

Well, Ollie is now. And that's proof that knowledge can supersede coaching experience.

"This is what UConn basketball is all about," Ollie said. "This is what Coach Calhoun built, and he gave me the baton. I'm just trying to keep proving everybody wrong. Everybody said our university is going to go down after the sanctions. And people left. We're still here. Somebody the other day said we're a Cinderella. We're UConn. UConn is always gonna stay here."

Ollie didn't have a lengthy résumé, beyond his NBA career, when he took the job in 2012. But he knew the game. And he knew how to convey that wisdom to a bunch of youngsters, who took it and won the national championship Monday night. He knew how to talk to them. He knew how to jell with them.

He knew how to be real with them.

That's why they love him.

That's why they fight for him.

And that's why they won it all for him.

"He's just a great motivator," Giffey said. "Honest person. He's always 100 percent positive, and he believes in me. He does that while being demanding in a way."

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