For any Georgia Tech fans who have made certain assumptions about Brian Oliver, the freshman on the basketball team, and Brian Oliver, the former standout from Tech's 1990 Final Four team -- not to worry.
You weren't the only ones confused.
When Tech coach Paul Hewitt first started to recruit the younger Oliver, who is from Glasstown, N.J., he got to thinking. The other Brian Oliver left Tech in 1990, the year the younger Oliver was born. He was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers that year, not that far away.
Hewitt picked up the phone.
"I said ‘I've got to ask this question,' " Hewitt recalls telling Oliver, who lives in Smyrna. "I went back and did the math. You got out in 1990. You were in Philadelphia. He said ‘No, no, no, he's not my kid.' "
But there was a split-second there where even the elder Brian Oliver acknowledges, he had to think.
"If you do the math, it's like whoa," said Oliver said, with a wide smile.
Before his wife, Eleonora, had any "whoa's" of her own, he told her Georgia Tech was bringing in another Brian Oliver, no relation.
"Oh yeah, I had to," he said. "If I never mentioned it and we're out having dinner and someone's like ‘Hey, I saw your son, he's doing great at Tech,' my wife is going to be like what the heck?"
Oliver has a 3-month-old daughter, Hayden, at home, his first child. He retired two years ago from playing in Europe, mostly Italy, where he met his wife. He's back in Smyrna, working at DPR Construction, and broadcasting some games for CSS.
Oliver asked to meet his young counterpart on his recruiting trip to Atlanta. Hewitt, who agreed of course, dropped his name, in effect, from his very first call to the younger Oliver.
"I said ‘I've got a great plan for you,' " Hewit said. " ‘I know how this story is going to end. You're going to be an All-American, you're going to play in the Final Four, you're going to graduate from Georgia Tech.' He just started laughing because he knew about the other guy."
The younger Oliver's response then and usually still is, "It's OK, I'll be the real one."
He has been having fun with this from the start. But what the younger Oliver didn't know then, and said he didn't know until he was told this week, is that his mother actually knew of the elder Brian Oliver when she was pregnant with her son and trying to decide on a name.
Zena Oliver had always named her children after the important men in her life. Her son Robert Jr. is named for her husband, Robert. Her daughter Samantha is named for her father, Sam. She wanted to name her third child Daniel, which was similar to her brother's name, Dana. She thought "Brian Daniel" sounded good.
"I picked ‘Brian,' then I found out that the other Brian Oliver was playing for the 76ers," said Zena Oliver, who was pregnant with her Brian Oliver when the other one was drafted by the 76ers. "I thought about it and thought about it. Should I change his name? And I said ‘Nope, I'm not going to. I'm just going to go with Brian Oliver.' "
How could she have known her son would grow up to play college basketball? And that he would attend the same school as the 76er?
Zena didn't know the elder Brian Oliver had gone to Georgia Tech until she started researching the schools that were recruiting her son. She told her son what she read about the other Brian Oliver, who played for Tech and the 76ers and went on to play overseas.
"We joked around about it," she said. "‘How crazy would that be for you to go to Georgia Tech and then there's another Brian Oliver there?' As it turned out, that was just the best fit for him, the academics, the coaching staff, the ACC."
Brian got on the computer to do some research of his own.
"I googled him, after they started recruiting me," the younger Oliver said. "I wanted to see what he'd done here. I was like ‘What am I up against? What do I have to live up to?' I saw it, and I was like ‘Hm, the guy is pretty good, he's done pretty well for himself.'"
The elder Oliver, who was an honorable mention on three All-America teams, joined Tech guards Kenny Anderson and Dennis Scott to make up "Lethal Weapon 3."
This Brian Oliver's lethal weapon is his ‘3.' The freshman wing is Tech's leading 3-point shooter, with 39 of them this season.
It took the elder Brian Oliver well into his junior season to put up as many 3-point shots (96) as the younger Oliver has attempted through 21 games this season.
But he made no qualms about stepping behind the 3-point line for a little shooting contest earlier this week at Tech's practice facility. Best-of-five shots: Brian Oliver vs. Brian Oliver.
"I'm not scared," the elder Oliver said.
He missed his second shot, while the younger one kept sinking. The younger Brian made all five of his shots, the elder four.
"I'll give you 5-for-5," the elder Oliver said, laughing. "It takes 5-for-5 to beat me. He's only -- what are you -- 19 years old? I've still got it, though."
Then came a little posting up, and the elder Oliver was talking again.
"That wall don't move," he said as the kid bumped into him.
The younger Oliver had a few things to say, too: "I'm strong, I'm telling you."
The elder Oliver reached for his biceps to see and kidded: "You might want to have a conversation with Coach [Willie] Reese," the implication being to change his workout program.
They were having fun with it. They have all along.
"He's a good guy," said the younger Oliver, who has met his counterpart on three occasions. "We meshed immediately."
On Saturday, Tech honored its 1990 team at halftime of the NC State game. This season is the 20th anniversary of Georgia Tech's first run to the Final Four.
Oliver can't be there because he's broadcasting a game in Houston for CSS. But he's got the next best thing: somebody else on the court, bearing his name.
"It's weird," said the elder Oliver, who still gets a little jumpy when he hears "Brian Oliver" announced on TV or at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. "Who would have thought?"
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