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Kevin Ollie enjoying his new role with Brooklyn Nets as assistant coach ... and motivator

Kevin Ollie has returned to the NBA as a Brooklyn Nets assistant coach and his players are happy he is.

Brooklyn Nets Practice in the Park Photo by Kostas Lymperopoulos/NBAE via Getty Images

Jacque Vaughn has known his No. 2, Kevin Ollie, for a while. In fact, they grew up in southern California and played for neighboring high schools as C.J. Holmes of the Daily News writes Monday.

“I’ve known this dude for a long time,” Vaughn said of Ollie. “He’s a couple of years older than me, but his high school was nine blocks from my high school. I played against him as a ninth grader.”

The two guards had similar careers as mostly backups in the NBA. Vaughn played 12 years in the NBA, making stops in five cities, a steady presence throughout who won a title in 2007 with the Spurs. Similarly, Ollie played 13 years with 11 teams. Both had short stints with the Nets while they were in New Jersey. Ollie didn’t win an NBA title as a player but as an NCAA coach, got UConn a championship in 2014.

So when it came time for Vaughn to remake his coaching staff, focusing on player development rather than championship contention, Ollie was an obvious choice. Last season, when the Nets were in Atlanta, Vaughn visited with his old friend at Overtime Elite, the basketball league for 16–20-year-olds that produced the Thompson Twins, taken at No. 4 and 5 in the 2023 NBA Draft. Ollie was coaching director at the league.

And while Ollie had a well-honed reputation for development, Vaughn knew he had another talent, motivating players. After after the Nets lost to the Hornets, that came into play, big time. Ollie delivered a pre-game motivation prior to the Nets facing off against the Magic on December 2. They had played poorly vs. Charlotte and lost two days earlier.

“The coaches were pissed off and so were we after that Charlotte [loss] and let it be known,” Mikal Bridges said. “Coming in the next day, they were just fired up and ready for the next game knowing that game was unacceptable. So they just had us all locked in and [Coach Ollie], that’s just how he is as a coach, too. He’s really forceful at getting you motivated and ready for the game, so we definitely needed it.”

The contents of the talk have not been revealed but it worked. In that game vs. Orlando, Bridges scored 26 points in the first quarter, had 34 points by halftime, and finished with 42 points. More importantly, Brooklyn took down the Magic, one of the NBA’s hottest teams at the time, in a 129-104 blowout at Barclays.

As Holmes reports, the players appreciated it.

“You love it,” Cam Johnson said. “And we responded to it. I thought it was a great scout, a great message by him to get us ready for the game.”

“He’s a guy that’s played at the highest level who has won championships,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Sometimes you just need that other voice, that kind of stern voice. Everybody has an uncle that might be on him a little bit tougher than his pops, right? You kind of tune out your pops sometimes, right? But your uncle steps in and keeps you on track. So I think it’s kind of that vibe.”

As anyone who’s watched college basketball knows, Ollie had a fall from grace after the UConn championship. The NCAA filed numerous charges against the Huskies and Ollie was let go. Ollie sued after the school refused to pay him what was remaining on his contract. Ultimately, the two sides settled for $3.9 million, ending “all outstanding matters related to his former employment,” the two sides said in a joint statement.

Now Ollie is back, in the NBA and contributing to his new team’s success. As Vaughn said, it’s all about “life’s timing.”