By Neill Ostrout
NEW YORK _ It was hardly the slap heard ‘round the world.
But the playful, open-hand smack UConn coach Kevin Ollie gave freshman point guard Terrence Samuel after a television interview Friday night quickly spread quickly, as such things often do, via the Internet.
“We were just goofing around. It was no big deal,” Ollie said Saturday as he and his team prepared to face Michigan State in Sunday’s East Regional final. “So we were just goofing around and they play a game, and they were putting bunny ears behind me. It just wasn’t nothing.”
During a live interview with Allie LaForce on TBS after the Huskies’ win over Iowa State in the Sweet 16, a number of UConn players in the background were doing their own versions of photobombing.
As Ollie was ending the chat, Samuel appeared to make the “monocle” sign that players often make after hitting a big shot. Ollie, perhaps seeing that, turned quickly and slapped his hand across Samuel’s face.
Samuel said the exchange was all in good fun.
“He’s just a very emotional guy and was expressing his feelings. I know he didn’t mean to do it like that. It was alright. He just got caught in the moment. He was joking with me,” Samuel said.
A number of the other Huskies exploded in laughter after the incident and were discussing it long after the game.
“I didn’t even see it. I was doing radio,” UConn guard Ryan Boatright said of a postgame interview with WTIC. “They were talking about in the locker room and as soon as we were done with media, it was all over the internet. It was on Vine, Twitter and all kinds of stuff. It was pretty funny.”
UConn center Phil Nolan, who has become something of a photobombing regular in live interviews by his teammates this season, said the exchange may have been part of something different.
“We have this little game we played called ‘Hardee’s’ where we smack each other a couple times,” Nolan said. “I guess coach just felt like getting involved in the game.”