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After Second Mistake, Tyler Olander Needs To Smarten Up

Jeff Jacobs

6:55 PM EDT, September 13, 2013

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The first time he was a college kid on spring break acting like a stupid college kid on spring break. The second time it is more.

After examining the available facts surrounding Tyler Olander's second arrest in six months last Saturday night, it's fairly simple and altogether profound to insist Olander needs to stop acting like a dope.

So we'll say it up front. Tyler, stop acting like a dope and grasp the consequences of your actions before you again embarrass yourself, your family and your school. Or else?

Or else the 6-9 starting senior post player doesn't deserve to walk another step in the sneakers that so many young kids around the state would so love to wear.

Having said that, there are some mitigating facts in this latest case that should stop people from rushing too fast and too hard to absolutes.

Olander, 21, was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules after he was pulled over by police on Route 195 and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol/drugs; operating an unregistered motor vehicle; and driving without a license. According to the report by state police in Tolland, Olander was arrested after failing standardized field sobriety tests. According to our sources, Olander was driving a friend's car.

In field tests, the officer makes judgments on the driver's appearance, ability to take directions, etc. There are tests like the walk-and-turn, walking heel to toe, in a straight line, and turning. There's the one-leg stand. There's the horizontal gaze nystagmus test — following the officer's finger or pen with your eyes.

That is what Olander failed. According to multiple sources close to the situation, however, Olander then passed the Breathalyzer test at the station. In Connecticut you are legally intoxicated if you have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Yet according to state law, if a person's ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drugs to an appreciable degree, the offense also may be prosecuted without direct evidence of a person's BAC.

So it will be interesting to see how this gray area plays out when Olander has his first date on Sept. 23 at Superior Court in Rockville. Anybody who has read this space over the years has seen me rail against the evils of drunk driving. Yet it is important, if we are to understand the fuller picture, to know that Olander didn't punch out some menacingly stupid 0.17 BAC. In fact, the Breathalyzer, according to sources, showed he wasn't legally drunk.

According to a source, Olander's friend was in the car with him and Olander could have taken over as sort of a designated driver. If so, that would qualify as a well-intentioned act of stupidity. As it stands the vehicle was unregistered and Connecticut law says the driver is culpable even if he isn't the owner. Let's be honest. How many times in your life have you driven a car for a friend and remembered to ask if his car is registered and fully insured? Still, the law is the law.

As for Olander's telling the officer, according to our sources, that he doesn't have a driver's license? Not a suspended license — no license. A 21-year-old adult from Mansfield in 2013 without a driver's license? That is baffling. It certainly speaks to awful judgment to get behind the wheel in the first place.

There appears to be plenty of that with Olander. He was arrested on trespassing charges in Panama City, Fla., in March for refusing to leave Lakewood Wharf resort after he was asked by security staff and then by a sheriff's deputy. He did not have a wrist band required to be within the gated property. Olander told Dave Borges of the New Haven Register that his girlfriend was there, he wanted to be with her, but it was past the allowed hour.

Here's the thing, Tyler. At a certain point, before they slap the cuffs on you, you have to know when to shut up and leave. And when you're still recovering from foot surgery and your coaches didn't want you to go to Florida in the first place, well, don't be a dope.

"You have concerns," Ollie told our Dom Amore in April. "I know he sat down with his parents — I'm not his parents, I'm his coach — and he made a decision that he wanted to go to spring break with some of his teammates. Unfortunately, he put himself in a bad situation and I think he has learned from it, grown from it and is going to be a better person from it."

Olander paid the $280 fine. He performed community service. He didn't learn from it. He was thrown out of the UConn locker room and barred from team activities for a month. Ollie took away his captaincy with a chance to win it back. He didn't grow from it. This much we know. You'll never read the word captain in front of Tyler Olander again.

Look, to everyone's assessment, Olander doesn't have a malicious bone in his body. He didn't steal laptops. He didn't hit his girlfriend. He didn't hit anybody. He wasn't caught carrying weapons. Yet any time you drink and drive, your car becomes a potential weapon.

The UConn coaches, according to an Amore's source, want Olander to put basketball aside until he modifies his off-court behavior and displays better judgment. That makes qualitative sense. Yet how does one quantify modification in terms of his suspension?

Ollie does have some track record in his brief tenure. Burglary, trespass and disorderly conduct charges against Enosch Wolf eventually were dropped after his campus arrest stemming from a physical altercation with a female resident. Prosecutors were satisfied with the personal counseling Wolf got. He didn't play the rest of the season after the February arrest and, while reinstated to the team in May it was without scholarship. Wolf decided to play for a pro team in Germany.

Without Wolf and with freshman Kentan Facey's eligibility under NCAA academic review after his move from Jamaica (he could be forced to redshirt), the Huskies are woefully thin up front. No Olander and no Facey would leave Phil Nolan, little used as a freshman, and freshman Amida Brimah.

Ollie is in a familiar moral vise for coaches. The reality of wins and losses — no matter what anybody says — can put the squeeze on the best of intentions. Discipline is always easier when players aren't vital to the cause. Even though Olander averaged 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, even if he had only one great game at Notre Dame, even if his junior season was a disappointment, Olander is an important man for a guard-rich UConn team that, if whole, could be special this season. We'll see how tall Ollie stands. We'll see his wisdom.

Olander's repeat offenses speak to a lack of duty to his teammates. He has been selfish. If I'm Shabazz Napier, I'm spitting mad at Olander right now for jeopardizing the season. Olander also better come to an immediate realization that the entitlement, the glory that comes with being the starting center at State U. disappears when he hits the real world next year. In the job world, Tyler, you get your butt fired for arrests and DUIs.

My son is just getting into high school basketball in the eastern part of the state. I've listened to him and his buddies from different schools in the area talk about Olander. For them, guys like Rudy Gay and Ray Allen are gods from a different basketball planet. Olander is a local guy. They can relate to him. If he can start for UConn out of E.O. Smith, wow, maybe they can do something like that. They look up to him. It motivates them. Whether Olander appreciates that, there is a power and a responsibility in his position.

There also are nine games between the Nov. 8 opener and the close of the semester in mid-December. Maybe that's enough time before Olander gets a third chance. If a fuller view of the DUI matter makes it clearer that he shouldn't be run off permanently, maybe he can use the fall semester of his senior college year of education for some serious behavior modification. In the meantime Tyler, two words of advice. Grow up.