Nets interim head coach Kevin Ollie watches his team during...

Nets interim head coach Kevin Ollie watches his team during first-half NBA game action against the Raptors in Toronto on Thursday. Credit: AP/Chris Young

ORLANDO, Fla. — Kevin Ollie had just wrapped his postgame speech Monday when Mikal Bridges yelled out “Congratulations.” The Nets then poured out water bottles on Ollie to celebrate his first win as interim coach.

Dennis Schroder took it further by grabbing a bucket of water to dump on Ollie. It left him soaked but relieved after starting 0-2 since taking over for Jacque Vaughn.

“We was all excited for him,” Bridges said. “I know it’s been tough for him to be in a position right now. Just happy we got the win for him, you know, got him a lot of water, so it was fun.”

The mood was enhanced by the Nets snapping their four-game losing streak. But Ollie got introspective about another moment in his basketball journey after playing 13 NBA seasons.

Someone made sure to secure the game ball for him and he already had plans for where it will go and who it was dedicated to.

“It will go in my office first. Definitely going to touch it and put it up for my mom in heaven and my sister in heaven,” Ollie said. “I know they were watching over me in this first win, so definitely going to raise it up and toast it to them.”

Ollie’s mother, Dorothy, raised him and his two older sisters. Born in Dallas, Ollie later moved to Los Angeles with his family. As an ordained minister, Dorothy, who died three years ago, raised Ollie in church to help him avoid gangs as his basketball career developed.

His sister Vita died in 2020. In an Instagram post, Ollie praised her for being positive and a problem solver.

Family was on Ollie’s mind, but so was his basketball journey. It was just six years ago that his promising coaching career was halted after UConn fired him during an investigation into NCAA violations.

Ollie, who won a national championship with UConn in 2014, sued his alma mater and, in January 2022, an arbitrator ruled he was owed $11 million because the school fired him improperly. The two sides later settled on a $3.9 million payment.

“God has just blessed me. Leaving UConn, just going through the arbitration and all that stuff with UConn and then Overtime Elite finding me,” Ollie said. “I’m being able to do something great and establish myself again with the young culture.”

He saved his final thanks for Vaughn, who hired him away from Overtime Elite, a college basketball alternative, last offseason. Ollie offered to fly and interview with his longtime friend from Los Angeles but Vaughn refused, saying he believed in him and in his character.

Vaughn spoke highly of Ollie’s coaching earlier this season and paid him a visit at Overtime Elite last season. It was enough to hire him for his first NBA assistant job.

It was also another chance to learn, just as he had when he spent two years as a UConn assistant to his former coach, Jim Calhoun, before taking over in 2012.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Ollie said of Vaughn. “Believing in me, bringing me in with no [NBA] coaching experience.

“I just want to say ‘thank him’ because I owe it all to him and all to God and this organization, [general manager] Sean Marks and everybody believing in me. [Owner] Joe Tsai believing in me.”

The Nets still plan to conduct a thorough coaching search after the season and Ollie said he knows he’s auditioning for a chance. But the first win meant a lot after the past six years and getting drenched served as a baptism for Ollie — being reborn as a coach on a new path in the NBA

“There’s 30 coaches in the league and he’s one of them,” Schroder said. “Got his first win, that’s pretty special and more to come hopefully this season.”

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