We’ve seen plenty of potential names thrown out for the Detroit Pistons’ coaching opening.
Finally, we’ve got an interview.
The Athletic’s James Edwards III and Shams Charania are reporting that the Pistons will interview longtime NBA journeyman and former University of Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie for the vacancy.
It’s the first known interview GM Troy Weaver has had since Dwane Casey’s stepped down and moved into the front office following Detroit’s 17-win season.
Ollie is an interesting name... albeit more interesting about eight years ago, but, still, a name that has been floated around for head coaching openings over the years. After his short but successful run at UConn, Ollie has been mostly out of the basketball limelight.
He’s spent most of that time working quietly behind the scenes, currently as the head of coaching and director of player development at Overtime Elite.
That’s interesting because the NBA Draft’s consolation prizes, Amen and Ausar Thompson, played in Overtime Elite. One would expect Ollie to be very familiar with both as the man overseeing the organization.
As for the NBA, Ollie was a hot name once upon a time. He had flirtations with the Los Angeles Lakers in the wake of his 2014 national title, but those never came to be. His messy divorce with Connecticut was also not the best publicity, albeit not his fault.
Overall, remember that this is just an interview. It’s not a hire. Ollie is a guy who made a career out of being a steady veteran presence for young teams, and that is usually the archetypes for a successful former player as an NBA head coach.
You’re probably wondering where the Troy Weaver connection is, right? Well, Ollie played his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009-10. He was the veteran mentor and adult in the room for a team that won 50 games in the year that birthed the Thunder’s golden era with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
Durant, in particular, thought very highly of Ollie as a veteran leader and culture changer:
“Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us,” Durant told Bill Simmons in 2014. “He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City.”
UPDATE: Add Charles Lee, Chris Quinn and Adrian Griffin to the list
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Detroit has also received permission to interview Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee.
Another name mentioned in the media before the interview reports, Lee played college ball at Bucknell before a cup of coffee with the San Antonio Spurs in Summer League. He must have made a good impression with then-assistant coach Mike Budenholzer because he’s spent his entire NBA coaching career under him in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Lee has been a serious candidate for the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers jobs, but most recently was a finalist for the Atlanta Hawks job that went to Quinn Snyder.
He’s got a youthfulness to him that could work well with this roster.
Woj is also reporting that Miami’s Chris Quinn and Toronto’s Adrian Griffin are also serious candidates and could interivew. Quinn was a journeyman like Ollie who spent time in San Antonio where he likely connected with Sam Presti — Troy Weaver’s mentor in OKC.
Griffin doesn’t have a clear connection to Weaver. He’s been an assistant under Nick Nurse with Toronto, but never worked under Casey there. He did, however, finish his playing career in 2007-08 with Presti’s Seattle Supersonics.
Do these connections actually matter? Probably not, but it’s fun to look for them.