Basketball coach Kevin Ollie has been on quite a journey, from an NBA career that saw him play in a dozen different uniforms to replacing legendary coach Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut. So you might think that journey culminated in UConn's national championship last week, but that would imply it's over when this trip is just getting started. Gayle King interviewed Kevin Ollie on "CBS This Morning."
Gayle King: LeBron James said this about you, that Kevin Ollie has the coaching gene. Kevin Durant said, "He taught us a mindset and professionalism, and all of us wanted to be like him."
Kevin Ollie: Wow. That's -- that's pretty awesome.
King: What's the Kevin Ollie formula for success?
Ollie: Oh, man, it's just a lot of hard work. It's believing in yourself. It's a pride that I gotta get better at something every time I wake up.
King: Okay, so we've been on YouTube. We've seen that [video of you dancing to Pharrell Williams' "Happy"]. You even had a thing where you did a Jay-Z "brush your shoulders off" too, Kevin.
Ollie: Yeah, we have to brush the doubters off. We always gotta brush the doubters off.
King: Let's talk about the doubters for a minute because you inherited a team that was on academic probation. It wasn't these particular players, but because of that, UConn wasn't allowed to play last year. What do you do to motivate that group of players? Because everybody says, "We're going to win." Everybody says that.
Ollie: Yeah, I mean, you're exactly right. Everybody brings it in before the season, say, "One, two, three, championship." I'm not chasing championships. Championship's chasing us. I'm not doing that. I want my players to be better people once they leave campus because this is a life lesson. This is more than basketball. This is life lessons that we're trying to teach.
King: Let's talk about unionization. A lot of college campuses are talking about it for athletes. Where do you stand on that?
Ollie: I just think they need a voice, whatever that voice is. Somebody needs to be talking in their behalf. You know, NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime. We have to do something for our student athletes. We have to change.
King: Did you ever have any trepidation about stepping into the shoes of Coach Jim Calhoun?
Ollie: I cannot step in his shoes. Only thing I'm glad that he passed me the baton, and I'm trying to run as fast as I can with it. And, you know, he's a great man. He's a father figure to me. But I got to be Kevin Ollie. He seen something inside of me before I seen it.
King: Before you saw it in yourself?
Ollie: Oh yeah, even when I was a 17-year-old coming from Los Angeles to Connecticut.
King: What did he see?
Ollie: Oh, he's seen a fighter. You know? He's seen somebody that -- like, when I first got to campus, I'm a freshman. I'm playing against all these great players, and I'm like [groans]. And I went to the dorm after our first practice, I called my mother, said, "Mom, I coming home." I was crying. Last thing I heard was a click. That's all.
King: She hung up?
Ollie: She hung up. And then I was like, "All right, I gotta go back, 'cause I can't go back home." So I just had to stick it out. And he just always told me, "Be the hardest worker. No matter what, just be the hardest worker."
King: Mom did a favor hanging up on you.
Ollie: She did a big-time favor. She was like, "I sent you there for a reason, to get your degree and play basketball."
King: You played [on] 11 different teams in 13 seasons. You've been to a lot of different teams.
Ollie: A lot of different teams. And I wasn't the most talented guy, so I had to watch tape. I was playing like 10 minutes. So I had to make sure I knew every play, not only on my team, but the opposing team. So I had to do my homework. And when you put the work in, great things happen.
King: Do you think what you learned as a player made you a better coach?
Ollie: I'm so glad, when you look back at it, that I went and I was able to be around so many different players and so many coaches. Of course, when I was in the NBA, I wanted to stay in one city and have a 20-year contract and all that. But it's good to come in the locker room and you say, "Ollie's on one of those jerseys." So I don't care if I'm on a 10-day contract [or] I was on a make-good contract. Make-good contract is every day they can cut you. So I've been on all those, but that's what made me. And I'm so glad God took me that journey.
King: This was in the "USA Today" right before the tournament. Did you see this?
Ollie: No, I didn't.
King: Okay, I thought this was really great. "Coach's pay: Kevin Ollie, $1.25 million. Billy Donovan, $3.9 million. John Calipari, $5.5 million. Bo Ryan, $2.2 million." There's a rumor that they're going to renegotiate your contract. Should they just back up the truck? Beep... Beep... Beep... What does Kevin Ollie want?
Ollie: I just want the right conditions around my players. I want the right condition around them.
King: I knew you wouldn't tell me the salary, but you are thinking, "I could probably get a little bit more than $1.25 million."
Ollie: I mean, I imagine because of a national championship, yeah. Just like I rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, when your stock is up, yeah, it's more. But money don't move me. I played in the NBA. That don't make a man. We going to sit down and negotiate, but I want the best for UConn.
King: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, "Hey, Kevin Ollie, you goin' to the NBA!" Has the NBA called?
Ollie: No, NBA hasn't called.
King: If the NBA called, would you answer?
Ollie: No, not now in my life. Like I say, I can't never say no--
King: Don't let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, "Guess what? So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call." There's no secret meetings?
Ollie: No. I'm just worried -- worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. I got three guys, four guys is going to graduate on time. I want to be there for their graduation. Actually, that's going to be even better than the national championship. ... I'm never going to say never, but I'm having so much fun. It's my dream job.