Having coached middle school and high school boys basketball (you read that right … boys basketball), I clearly qualify as an expert on coaches and contracts. However, my background in economics and outcomes-based budgeting helps too.

It appears that absent lengthy litigation, we the people of the state of Connecticut will end up buying out former UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie’s contract for “just cause” and “big bucks.” Those big bucks include $3 million to hire University of Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley to replace Ollie, and at the upper end $10 million to buy out Ollie’s contract. Ouch! 

Could this have been avoided? After all, coaching is an imperfect art at best, and Ollie came out of the player ranks into coaching pretty quickly. There was really no “data” to evaluate his past performance, so how would we know what to expect? Well, the UConn men won the NCAAs on his first foray into the Division I tournament as a head coach, clearly a promising sign. Then things seemed to fall apart.

I suggest a page out of outcomes-based budgeting could have avoided this dilemma, and if instituted, it could avoid future expensive dilemmas.

Instead of outcomes-based budgeting, we need outcomes-based contracting. As House chairwoman of the Legislature’s Committee on Children, I am pleased that we are already instituting this at the Department of Children and Families. How does it work? 

In a nutshell, the idea is to write into the contract expectations about outcomes, not strict performance standards (because that tends to lead to fudging data all over the place). This is centered around three basic questions: 1. How much did you do? (e.g. how many games did you win, how many new recruits did you land?) 2. How well did you do it (e.g. by what margins did you win? Were there a slew of avoidable injuries? Excessive fouls? Were NCAA rules adhered to?) And, arguably most important: 3. Is anyone better off (e.g. are the players doing well academically, have players been plagued by arrests? Have graduates found success after college? Is the program considered to be in the top tier?) These would be agreed-upon goals that would be used to ascertain whether the team was moving in the right direction. 

All interested parties sign the contact, there is full disclosure, and if the team is not making progress in the agreed-upon direction, everyone (the public included) knows that a change will need to be made. Either dismissal or a period of time to attempt to “turn the curve” and head in the right direction. Not an expensive buyout that is pretty much a negative-sum game where everyone is unhappy and everyone loses.

And as I am ending my career as a legislator, I would like to make it known that I am available to coach — and I’ll agree to an outcomes-based contract.

Diana Urban represents the 43rd District in the Connecticut House of Representatives. She is not running for re-election.

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