STORRS, Conn. – Ryan Boatright realized after just a few minutes that playing for Connecticut under Kevin Ollie was going to be a bit different than playing for Jim Calhoun.
UConn hit just one of its first nine shots and trailed 10-2 in its opening exhibition game against American International College when Ollie called his first timeout. He pulled the team onto the court, where he and the starters sat on stools going over things. There was no screaming.
"The mistakes that we made, we definitely would have heard about it in a way different way than we hear about it with KO," Boatright said. "The fans would have got a show if we had played like that with Calhoun."
It took the Huskies more than a half to get their first lead for Ollie. But a 3-pointer by Boatright sparked a 16-0 run in the second half and the Huskies ended up cruising to a 78-63 win.
Freshman Omar Calhoun led the Huskies with 24 points. Boatright had 14.
Ricky Hudson had 18 points for Division II AIC, Jim Calhoun's alma mater.
The Hall of Famer, who retired in September, watched from press row. He slipped into Gampel Pavilion just before the tip, chatted with referee John Cahill and then took a seat along the baseline.
He spent much of the game resting his elbow on the press table with his chin in his hand or chatting with Warde Manuel, the school's athletic director. But after the game, he went to the locker room.
"He said a few words, which I'm lying about. You know he can't just say a few words," Ollie joked. "It was good though. Coach knows when to step off, to step back, let me do what I have to do and then he has the right words."
The Huskies never led in the first half and trailed by as many as 10 points. They had 10 first-half turnovers, but pulled within 29-28 on a 3-pointer by Shabazz Napier just before halftime.
They tied the game on a 3 by Boatright and took their first lead at 35-33 on two free throws by Tyler Olander a minute later.
DeAndre Daniels, who had eight points and nine rebounds, said Ollie's style helped the Huskies stay confident.
"It's a lot better, because he stayed positive with us, and just told us play hard and play our game," he said.
But he also expressed some displeasure at times, especially when Omar Calhoun decided to pose after drawing a foul on a layup, and then signaled to the crowd after making a 3-point shot.
"He just said, 'We don't do that here,'" Calhoun said. "I just got a little caught up in it."
Calhoun is expected to be a big contributor on a team that returns just five players who had significant playing time last season. Five other underclassmen left the team in the offseason.
The Huskies, who finished last season a disappointing 20-14 a year after winning the program's third national title, are picked to finish ninth in the Big East this season and are academically ineligible for the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
This is the first season that someone other than Jim Calhoun has been the head coach since Dom Perno coached his final game in 1986.
Assistant coach George Blaney left Ollie a note that said, "Take your time and enjoy it."
"It was great to come back to your alma mater," he said. "To have coach Calhoun sitting down there, my AD sitting down there, there was a lot of pressure right there. But it worked out good."
UConn opens the regular season on Nov. 9 in the Armed Forces Classic at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.