With a championship and a new contract, challenges still remain for Kevin Ollie

Jamie Squire

Kevin Ollie's raise was well deserved, but his work is hardly done.

They had barely cleaned the confetti off the floor of AT&T Stadium when talk of a raise began for national championship head coach Kevin Ollie.

Ollie had led his alma mater, UConn, to the title in just his second year at the helm, becoming one of the most respected young coaches in America and surely earning the attention of more than a couple NBA GMs in the process.

Six weeks later, negotiations with the Huskies finally seem to be coming to an end. Ollie is reportedly on the verge of inking a new five-year deal worth nearly $3 million per season -- more than double what he made in 2013-14.

And so, with a thicker wallet and a championship ring on the way, Ollie can now get to work on building the future in Storrs.

The 41-year-old coach has accomplished a lot in his first two seasons, winning over the approval of even the best coaches nationwide. But Ollie still has more to prove.

As ESPN's Jeff Goodman pointed out, the core of this championship team was brought in under Ollie's Hall of Fame predecessor, Jim Calhoun.

For now, it seems like Ollie has the recruiting part down. He's convinced four-star recruits Daniel Hamilton (2014) and Prince Ali (2015) to come to Connecticut and has the Huskies on the radars of several five-star recruits for next season.

But as anyone who keeps up with the Huskies will tell you, Calhoun's greatest skill was not convincing the top recruits to come to UConn. It was his ability to evaluate and develop talent as well as anyone in the country.

Calhoun took an overlooked Emeka Okafor and watched as he nearly averaged a double-double and blocked over four shots per game as a freshman. Two years later, Okafor led the Huskies to the 2004 championship. Calhoun and his staff also took Hasheem Thabeet, who couldn't get out of his own way as a freshman, and turned him into Big East Player of the Year as a junior.

Ollie needs to prove that he can not only bring talent to campus, but that he knows what to do when it arrives.

This season was a great sign, for sure. Not every coach could have taken a team that lost back-to-back games to Houston and SMU in the regular season all the way to the title.

Ollie did. But that was just as much on the players as it was on the coach. Shabazz Napier absolutely refused to let the Huskies lose, hitting big shot after big shot, as he had been doing his entire career. Ryan Boatright helped shut down some of the best guards in the country as the Huskies swept through the NCAA Tournament. DeAndre Daniels had the game of his life against Iowa State to hold off a furious Cyclone comeback in the Sweet 16.

Ollie won't be blessed with this kind of team every year. No matter how good he might be at recruiting or teaching, he will get players who don't buy into the system, who aren't willing to make their teammates better, who suck the energy out of practice like a vampire, with a poor attitude and consequently poor play.

It happens to the best, and Ollie will have to find a way to make it work, all while making sure his team keeps up in the classroom -- a high priority in Storrs these days.

To be fair, Ollie has already handled a world of adversity over the last two years. But it will be a different story when he does not have a defined leader in uniform. Boatright will be asked to fill that role next year, but can he do it in the same way, with the same consistency as Napier? Maybe.

Even if he can, who will fill that role the next year? And after that? Soon, Ollie will need to mold a team from scratch, develop them on and off the court, push the right buttons to help them mesh and ultimately make them a winning team.

It's a lot to ask for a young coach. Will he be able to do it? That shiny new ring certainly makes a good case.

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