Exclusive Q&A: UConn coach Kevin Ollie talks March Madness
Our culture typically celebrates sports heroes by erecting statues or holding parades for wins and feats of strength on the court. This March Madness Dove Men+Care has partnered with a legendary college basketball duo in former UConn coach Jim Calhoun and his protégé Kevin Ollie to show another side that defines men as heroes in each other's eyes and explore the deep bonds of their friendships.
Together, these NCAA icons will challenge pop culture's portrayal of male friendship that shows a watered down version of the true importance of their relationships. Modern Men are multi-dimensional and the reality is that they need and want close friendships. This tournament season, Calhoun and Ollie will share their own stories that show the real meaning of men's friendships and their impact off the court.
Calhoun and Ollie also worked with Dove Men+Care on new research that shows the impact that men have on the lives of their friends. Key findings include:
Men today place a high value on their friendships. They acknowledge the importance of their male friends and the positivity that they bring to their lives.
-87% of men say that their male friendships are important in their life
-And 94% feel that their male friends have a positive impact on their life and their overall well-being
-While men's friendships are fun and entertaining, men still place a greater importance on the valuable and meaningful aspects of these friendships.
-91% of men agree they would rather have a few meaningful friendships instead of many acquaintances
-90% of men agree that their friendships are built on trust, not just people to have a good time with
-Research suggests that sports play an important role in helping men strengthen their friendships. Specifically, sports bring men together and keep them connected.
-Over two-thirds of men bond with their friends over sports or fitness
-March Madness falls third among the list of sporting events that bring friends together (they watch together, discuss, etc.)
Ollie took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with AOL Sports:
Q: This new campaign is really cool. How excited were you to begin your work with Dove?
A: It's been fun. It's been inspiring just to work with Dove. We always talk about Dove Men+Care and it's great to work with team. I used the products before I started to work with the team, so it's a great situation. They came up with a great situation with myself and coach Calhoun and the bond we have. The impact he's had on myself, but also my family and my kids -- he's a father figure to me. I thank Dove for allowing us to grow.
Q: What was the most important lesson you learned from coach Calhoun when you were transitioning into the role of head coach?
A: Playing for him, having him around, it was a humbling experience. It was a lot more than just X's and O's. I've been around great coaches. It's more about relationships. You have to get those guys to believe in our culture. The culture was always the same, and you can make a suit out of same fabric. It was a beautiful thing about our relationship, that he allowed me to make mistakes and come into his office when I needed to.
But sometimes, he'd tell me, 'you gotta grow through this.' He gave me time. There were times I said, 'Where you been?' He said, 'I cant be there all the time for you.'
I wanted him there. But I had to build my program and sustain it the right way. Everything I learned from him, it was mostly trust. Never get out-worked, always have a will to prepare no matter what's going on. Believe in yourself. More importantly, cherish every day. We try to highlight the down times in life -– like, most would be miserable after a loss –- but you have to make sure you highlight the wins.
Q: Obviously the best moment for you probably is winning the national championship. Do you remember what was going through your head when the final buzzer sounded?
A: I wanted to hug my family. I wanted to hug my players and tell them how much I care about them. And how much further I can see on the shoulders of giants in my life. Coach is a giant. The opportunity to coach and become a man here at the Storrs campus has been amazing.
Q: Have you felt like you've gotten through to players and have impacted their lives in a big way? Is that the ultimate reward for you?
A: It's the ultimate feeling, to see that message is getting through. Whenever you see young men doing the right things, it makes me feel great. We're in the business of winning and losing, but I want to win life before I win games.
Q: Did you find quickly that you needed to improve on a certain skill needed to be a good leader?
A: Oh, everything. You don't come in knowing everything. No situation is gonna be perfect. You make it perfect by the way you handle relationships. I want to be consistent with my message and speak with clarity. I also want to be flexible. You can't rule with an iron fist because everyone is different. You have to learn and navigate through that and get them to trust you. I had to get used to that. I was used to taking advantage of situations as a player. But the greatest performers are the greatest learners -- ad the greatest leaders are honest with themselves each and every day.
Q: Daniel Hamilton has had an up-and-down sophomore year, but has turned it up lately. What has been the key for him -- and how important is he in your run at reaching The Dance?
A: I think it's not taking so many 3s. He's always a triple-double threat with his rebounding prowess. He struggled with his shot a lot this season, and we want that to come up in tournament time. It's about understanding where your shots are gonna come from. He's shooting 87 percent from the free-throw line, and if he's averaging six-to-eight free throws a game, that will be money in the bank for us.
We're feeling good about the opportunity. We can't control anything in the tournament,but we can control how we respond and compete. The only thing we can do is take care of ourselves. One step at a time, and we're not dwelling on any negatives.
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