Coaching staff has prepared UConn for each challenge

Arlington, Texas - The UConn coaching staff spent a long and restless Saturday night preparing for the national championship game.

Sleep can wait for the offseason.

UConn learned late Saturday it would be playing Kentucky tonight at AT&T Stadium.

By the time the Huskies finished their team breakfast Sunday morning, the coaches were ready talk to their players about the Wildcats.

"I didn't sleep too much," coach Kevin Ollie said. "We were up all night preparing."

Preparation has been at the heart of UConn's success during its surprising NCAA tournament run. The Huskies have completely disrupted and neutralized the strengths of opponents, including No. 1 Florida.

For example, they kept Florida catalyst Scottie Wilbekin from getting into the lane where he's been so effective this season. The Gators tied a season-low for points in a 63-53 loss.

"It's been unbelievable," senior Tyler Olander said of the preparation. "That's one of the reasons we've been so successful. Our coaches come up with game plans and schemes and they really take their players out of the game.

"I give them so much credit. I know they work so hard. They were up all (Saturday) night getting ready. After breakfast, they had film ready and notes. Their preparation is unbelievable. That's a tribute to the legacy of UConn and (former) coach (Jim) Calhoun. All these coaches, they played here. They love to win just as much as we do."

The staff of Ollie, associate head coach Glen Miller, and assistant coaches Karl Hobbs and Ricky Moore has strong UConn ties that date back before the glory years. They've literally grown up together.

Hobbs and Miller were teammates at UConn and served as assistant coaches during two different stints in Storrs. Both coached Ollie during his playing days. Hobbs coached Moore, who was a teammate of Kevin Freeman, director of basketball operations, on the program's first national championship team in 1999.

"We have a great relationship," Hobbs said Sunday. "The synergy and camaraderie with this staff is unbelievable. I think you can see it when we're together. Usually we're having fun and talking about when Kevin played and Ricky played. We're always talking about the past teams. We're always having fun and always on the same page.

" No one else has that kind of situation in terms of staff. That's why we work so well together. At the end of the day, it starts with Kevin Ollie. He's the head coach, but he values every guy's opinion about every situation. And that's not always the case with every head coach."

The coaching staff also is one of the most experienced around. Hobbs and Miller, both in their 11th seasons as assistants, were head coaches of their own Division I programs - the former at George Washington and the latter at Brown and Penn.

In his second year as head coach, Ollie greatly appreciates his staff.

"I have an amazing coaching staff and we collaborate on a lot of things, it's not just me," Ollie said. "They do a great job preparing my student-athletes for war."

The coaches' chemistry plays a major part in helping them prepare effective game plans and teaching the players how to execute.

"I think you can see that," Hobbs said. "If you look at all the games, there hasn't been a single game that we played this year that we haven't been prepared. And there is always going to be a wrinkle.

"I can't tell you what that wrinkle will be, I've been sworn to secrecy."

g.keefe@theday.com

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