Former UL Basketball Rival Mike Olliver’s Fall From Grace
Are you old enough to remember the great basketball rivalry between the Louisiana (then USL) Ragin' Cajuns and the Lamar Cardinals from the late 1970's-early 1980's?
Do you remember the great talent that both of those programs had; such as Andrew Toney, Dion Rainey, and Kevin Figaro for the Cajuns, and B.B. Davis and Clarence Key of Lamar?
I recently attended a women's basketball game between Louisiana and Lamar at the Montaigne Center in Beaumont, and memories of my childhood came rushing back as I looked up and saw the banners hanging, including a list of retired Lamar numbers, which included Davis and Key.
One name that was missing in the building, however, was Mike Olliver, a three-time first-team All-Southland Conference selection (1979-1981), and the league's Player of the Year in 1981.
The reason is pretty simple too; Olliver was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2008 for stabbing his ex-girlfriend in 2007.
It was a sad moment for me.
Granted, I felt guilty for feeling sad, and still do. After all, Olliver's victim has gone through more than I can ever imagine, and Olliver's family has endured incredible pain as well.
Still, I loved to hate Lamar and Olliver back in the day, and it still feels like a kick in the gut.
It was all part of being a sports fan though. It was nothing personal.
You don't normally hate bad teams or bad players. Hate, from a sports standpoint, is directed toward good players/teams.
And man oh man; Lamar was so good, as was Oliver.
A native of Temple, Texas, Olliver attended Southern Wayne High School in Dudley, North Carolina, before returning to The Lone Star State to play college basketball for Lamar and head coach Billy Tubbs.
Olliver helped Lamar to the program's first three Division I NCAA Tournament appearances, scoring 2,518 career points (20.6 per game), the most in school history.
Olliver averaged 15.9 points-per-game as a freshman in 1977-1978, helping Lamar to a Southland Conference Championship with an 8-2 league mark, including two wins over the Cajuns, a 110-80 win in Beaumont, as well as a 91-89 triumph in Lafayette.
As a sophomore in 1978-1979, Olliver averaged 22.0 ppg, helping the Cardinals to a 9-1 Southland Conference record, and another league title, as well as an NCAA Tournament win over Detroit Mercy.
Lamar's only conference loss that year was an 88-84 setback to the Cajuns at Blackham Coliseum.
In 1979-1980, Lamar may have had its best team, with Olliver leading the way, averaging another 22.0 ppg.
That season, Lamar finished 22-11, overall, and 8-2 in Southland Conference play, splitting the season series with the Cajuns, losing, 75-64, in Lafayette, before winning, 90-87, in Beaumont.
Also that season, the Cardinals advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, winning games against Weber St. and Oregon St.
That same year, the Cajuns advanced to the Elite Eight of the NIT.
In Olliver's senior year, 1980-1981, he played under new coach Pat Foster, but continued to excel, averaging 22.3 ppg, helping Lamar to an overall record of 25-5, as well as a fourth-straight SLC title, with an 8-2 mark.
Lamar won another NCAA Tournament game that season, defeating Missouri, before being eliminated by LSU.
Following his stellar collegiate career, one which helped him be named to the Southland Conference 1980's All-Decade Team, Olliver was drafted in the second round (32nd pick overall) by the Chicago Bulls in the 1981 NBA Draft, before being traded to the Indiana Pacers.
The 6-foot-1 Olliver never played in the NBA but did spend time in the old Continental Basketball Association, before becoming a high school coach in North Carolina.
Olliver did some great things as a prep coach, including coaching his son and helping him through a rare medical condition.
Sadly, Olliver's life became unraveled when he was arrested and convicted of stabbing his former girlfriend.
Thankfully, the victim survived, but her scars, both physically and emotionally, will last forever.
I mean, this story is about Olliver, due to his basketball prowess, and the memories of the old USL/Lamar rivalry; but in reality, the story should be about her, and how brave she has been, after the pain she has had to endure.
Olliver, who was 47-years old at the time, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Yeah; thoughts of my childhood entered my mind a couple of weeks ago in Beaumont, which made me smile.
Then I realized where Mike Olliver was, for what he had done, and the smile quickly evaporated.