Kevin Ollie’s lawsuit against UConn takes a bounce in his favor; Ray Allen thinks he was mistreated at a deposition

Ray Allen (center) poses with then-UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie (left) and women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma (right).

Like a basketball game with several lead changes, the nearly $11 million lawsuit by Kevin Ollie against the University of Connecticut, has, at least for the moment, taken a turn in favor of its former player and coach.

An arbitrator has ruled that Ollie is covered by a union contract requiring UConn to prove that it was justified in firing him in March 2018.

Among the school’s allegations was that Ollie provided false or misleading statements to a recruit by two former Huskies’ stars, Ray Allen and Rudy Gay.

To Ray Allen “this thing has gone on far too long”

Ray Allen, a Basketball Hall of Famer and UConn immortal, is unhappy about how he was treated in a deposition in the case, and has sided with Ollie in the dispute.

“This thing has gone on far too long,” Allen said on the practice tee during the pro-am of the Traveler’s Championship at a golf course in Cromwell, CT, this summer.

“Just pay the man his money. Come to some type of agreement that’s a compromise. Both sides won’t like it, but step up. The university needs to step up to say, ‘This is our guy. He’s been (there) for us, he’s put four great years in for us, he’s taken our program to a place where it didn’t exist before he got here. And he’s won a championship as an assistant and a head coach, and we have him hanging on the side … It’s disappointing, and everybody in the state knows it.”

Allen believes that “there’s a dark fog hanging over our university. It’s tarnished who we are, and where we hope to go in our future.”

A break for pizza

Allen, whose Connecticut uniform number 34 was retired last March, took a break from voicing his displeasure by enjoying pizza with friends last week at Pepe’s, one of Connecticut’s iconic pizza restaurants on New Haven’s Wooster Street. But he is still angry about how he was treated by UConn’s attorneys at the deposition.

“I was badgered, as a witness, to try to create some type of slander or negativity against my name or how I’ve dealt with the university,” he said. “I’ve done nothing but help grow the university, being an ambassador for the university. For them to treat me as if I was some type of hostile witness, I’m beside myself over it.”

Allen and Calhoun urge a settlement

Allen believes Ollie would welcome a negotiated settlement. Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun is hoping for the same thing.

This is “hurting everybody. There’s no winner in this. If Kevin gets a few more bucks, big deal. If the university wins, big deal. No one’s winning, and that’s what I don’t like,” said Calhoun, who coached both Ollie and Allen at UConn.

Allen would like to speak with new UConn president Thomas C. Katsouleas, who replaced Susan Herbst on Aug. 1st. “I’ll be very interested in sitting down and talking with him, because right now, we have no leadership,” Allen said. “Because good leadership wouldn’t allow this to go on.”

How arbitration could help Ollie

The latest issue in arbitration was whether a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the school and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), of which Ollie is a member, takes precedence over Ollie’s personal services contract.The arbitrator ruled it does.

The CBA agreement requires a showing of “serious misconduct” in order to fire an employee for “just cause.” But the personal services contract has a lower requirement level and would have been easier for UConn to prove.

The arbitrator, Marcia Greenbaum, disagreed with the University on that one and sided with the CBA, thus preserving Ollie’s union support.

The executive director of the UConn chapter of the AAUP, Michael Bailey, pointed out that “serious misconduct is the standard that now has to be proved by the university” and “that is a heavy burden to be placed on (it).”

The school impliedly acknowledged that the ruling will make proving its case more difficult.

The basketball program was placed on two years’ of probation last month by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which also sanctioned Ollie personally for allowing improper pickup games, the use of a video coordinator as a coach, and free training sessions to three players.

“UConn remains confident it can prevail in this matter, even against the higher standard, especially in light of the recent NCAA ruling,” said Stephanie Reitz, a school spokeswoman.

This “game” is not over!

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