On the September day he was introduced as the UConn basketball coach, a day he carried in a most impressive and emotional way, Kevin Ollie needed to fight back tears when his attention turned to his daughter Cheyenne.
Ollie talked about walking down the hill to the bus stop with Cheyenne, the family dog in tow, every morning that he could. Overwhelmed by the beauty and simplicity of such a father and daughter moment, Ollie barely could get out his words.
“That's the best time of the day,” he said, “right there.”
Well, according to the UConn police, some father's daughter had her hair pulled shortly before 6 a.m. Monday. Some father's daughter allegedly had her head pushed at a UConn campus apartment that Enosch Wolf refused to leave. Some father's daughter allegedly had the glasses knocked off her face by one of Kevin Ollie's players, a hulking 7-foot-1, 245-pound center from Germany.
And now Kevin Ollie, coach, deeply religious husband and father, faces a difficult decision. It is the first real crisis of his tenure, and it will begin to define him and the program he will lead for years to come.
What should he do with Enosch Wolf?
I'm not sure there is a simple answer. I would not play Wolf the final eight games of this season. Yet should it stop there? If the charges are proved true, I also cannot find a more prudent course at this point than to bid Wolf a permanent goodbye, “auf Wiedersehen.”
“I'm not going to make a comment on Enosch's situation,” Ollie said Tuesday. “We're going to let the legal process take care of itself. You all read my comments [from Monday]. Hopefully, we understand that. It's all about Syracuse. We change the channel.”
Wolf, suspended indefinitely, is scheduled to be at Superior Court in Rockville on Wednesday, hours before the Huskies face Syracuse at the XL Center for the final time in the Big East. There's a strong chance that the court case will be continued — thus without resolution — for several weeks.
Without Wolf, Ollie will look to Tyler Olander to pick up his game. Without Wolf, Ollie will look to freshman Philip Nolan to do something.
“He just has to get himself involved,” Ollie said about Olander. “Play harder. Play with more energy and effort. It's got to be another level. … To get there it has to take massive action.”
“There's no more waiting,” Ollie said.
For Wolf, there is much we don't know, beginning, of course, with whether the charges of burglary, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct are all true. We know little beyond what is in the police report, but if it proves to be an episode of domestic violence, it raises questions that have plagued athletes. We are in serious denial if we paint domestic violence, especially among athletes, as anything less than a societal plague.
If guilty as charged, is Wolf willing to go the whole nine yards to fix what is wrong? Or will it be brushed off as one unfortunate mistake that ends with 30 hours of community service that might satisfy the court, but doesn't get to the root of what could be wrong? I make no sweeping allegations here, only sweeping questions.
Yet short of real solutions, it seems as if it would make more sense for UConn to cut relations with Wolf if he is guilty. He would deserve a second chance, but it probably should be elsewhere on somebody else's watch.
Ollie inherits a great program, yet one also trying to distance itself from a significant number of academic, NCAA and criminal problems over a sustained period. UConn President Susan Herbst and athletic director Warde Manuel have taken great pains to forge a path they want the athletic department to follow.
This is Ollie’s chance to make his mark as a disciplinarian, as a leader. He has talked plenty about the building of young men and now his first important public decision is at hand. Look, we can go on and on about UConn's Ben Gordon continuing to play after he slapped a woman in the face in 2003. We can go on and on about how Syracuse handled Eric Devendorf after he hit a woman in the face five years later. But the sad truth is if you are looking for sound, moral precedent in this area of major college sports, you’ll find little consistency and even less morality.
I found something fascinating in a recent Jemele Hill piece in ESPN.com: The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes cited a 1995 study that found that people in the general population accused of assault were convicted 80 percent of the time while athletes facing similar charges were convicted 38 percent of the time.
If the Wolf case is one of domestic violence, well, a real man doesn't hit a woman. Period. That conclusion is not difficult to reach. It is trying to understand what leads people to do such a thing that is so complex.
After essentially providing nothing for two years, Wolf has emerged as a serviceable backup this season, averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. He has appeared genuinely thankful to the fans for embracing him this season, intent on proving that a scholarship invested in him was worthwhile.
Encouraged to play with more fire, he also has shown some anger issues on the court. There have been some flying elbows, the flagrant foul against St. John's for example. Some glares. Some cases of yelling at officials. Does that indicate a potential loss of control? Or not?
I do not know. I do know that his arrest has brought embarrassment to his school. I do know he put himself in a bad position and hurt his team. He's guilty of selfishness.
“Represent the university,” Ollie said, repeating his mantra. “Make sure you make wise decisions.”
Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah are coming next season. Nolan will be a year older. Olander will return as a senior starter. How much is to be gained by Wolf, already 22, returning for a senior year?
“He is suspended indefinitely,” Ollie, a coach and dad, said. “Make your own conclusions.”
Cutting the star player loose on the eve of a bowl game or the NCAA Tournament is something so many coaches haven't been able to do. The lure of ultimate victory was greater than their moral code. On that point, UConn has nothing extra to play for this season and Wolf is a backup. On that point, a new coach has a chance to make a first, resounding statement about who he is and where the program is headed.
This is an edited version of a story that appeared online earlier.