UConn held its first practice under new basketball coach Dan Hurley on Saturday, a day after receiving NCAA notification of alleged recruiting and other violations during Kevin Ollie’s tenure at the school.
Hurley said everyone is aware of the off-the-court issues. The school said the players won’t comment on the allegations.
“I haven’t heard a whisper from these guys,” Hurley said. “Obviously, they care for Kevin and the staff that they played for, so it’s not like they don’t care, but they are focused on the season.”
Hurley said the allegations are likely to have a greater impact on recruiting. He was on the phone Friday night as soon as the news came out, “just to make sure you talk to the appropriate people.”
The notice of allegations, released Friday night by UConn with the names of recruits redacted, include numerous charges, such as unethical conduct by Ollie for allegedly providing false or misleading information about video calls to a recruit from two former UConn stars, Hall of Famer Ray Allen and Rudy Gay.
The NCAA recommends the case be reviewed by a hearing panel of its Committee on Infractions “pursuant to procedures applicable to a severe breach of conduct.”
Ollie was fired by UConn in March with cause, allowing the school to forgo paying him the $10 million left on his contract. The school later released 1,300 pages documents outlining alleged NCAA violations under Ollie.
Ollie is challenging the school’s decision to withhold the money and has asserted that any violations were minimal and isolated.
His attorney, Jim Parenteau, issued a statement Friday night disputing the NCAA findings and said he “is disappointed that the NCAA has chosen to align itself with the University of Connecticut in the pending arbitration.”
“Coach Ollie denies engaging in any conduct that would constitute non-compliance with NCAA rules and regulations and looks forward to defending himself and restoring his reputation,” he wrote.
UConn officials said in a statement that the findings are consistent with the results of the school’s investigation and they had been expecting the news.
“While the allegations are a disappointment for the university, our student-athletes and coaches, and certainly all of UConn Nation, we believe strongly that we have made difficult yet appropriate decisions intended to protect the accountability, integrity, and success of our athletic program now and well into the future,” the statement read.
The allegations against Ollie and his staff also include: having improper contact with recruits, providing impermissible meals to recruits, shooting baskets with a recruit, holding improper workouts and providing free tickets to an athletic trainer who hosted improper training sessions both on campus and in Georgia, which amounted to gifts.
Ollie was fired after a 14-18 season amid the NCAA investigation. He led UConn to a 127-79 record over six seasons, including the 2014 national title.
Guard Jalen Adams, who sat out Saturday’s practice with an injured finger, said the team is concentrating on breaking some bad habits from the past and matching the intensity of their new coach on the court.
“I think we’re in a good place,” he said. “I think everyone is jelling together perfectly. We’re just worried about what we can control and that’s whatever is in between those lines.”
UConn opens its season on Nov. 8 against Morehead State.
Hurley said the goal is to make the postseason, but his players will need to improve.
“We have some talented players, but we have a long way to go, mostly because we just don’t have winning habits.”
Source: The Associated Press