AP NEWS

Dan Hurley seen as a home run hire for UConn

March 22, 2018

Dan Hurley will be officially introduced as UConn’s next men’s basketball coach at a press conference Friday afternoon.

UConn announced the hiring of Hurley, its top choice to replace fired head coach Kevin Ollie, Thursday morning.

Hurley, who rebuilt the Rhode Island program into an Atlantic 10 Conference power in his six years there, agreed to a six-year deal worth 3 million per year to fill its vacancy. Rhode Island extended a raise and perks to Hurley in an attempt to keep him.

But a chance to coach at UConn was too hard for Hurley to resist. Hurley wanted his next job to be at a school where he had a chance to win a national championship, a source said.

Hurley informed his URI players of his decision early Thursday morning, according to the Providence Journal.

“I know it’s always been his dream job,” said George Blaney, who coached Hurley for two years at Seton Hall before eventually joining Calhoun’s staff at UConn. “He grew up with all the success that UConn had. He really appreciated what Jim did there and what kind of program they had and what kind of following the state had for the program.

“I think it was really terrific that he was able to get the job. … He knows how to build a program and rebuild one in this case. It’s a perfect job for him and perfect selection for UConn. He’s got great passion for the game and he understands the game and teaches it exceptionally well, which is what I think makes it a good marriage.”

Hurley also received a glowing endorsement from Calhoun, whose known the Hurley family — father Bob Hurley, Sr., is a Hall of Fame coaching legend and older brother Bobby, a former All-American guard at Duke, is the head coach at Arizona State — for years.

Calhoun visited a Rhode Island practice last fall and spent about an hour talking to Hurley afterward.

Hurley possesses some of the same coaching personality traits as Calhoun. He has a reputation for being intense, demanding and bringing the best out of his players as well as being a strong recruiter. He ran a guard-oriented attack at Rhode Island and stressed a defensive mindset.

“He’s clearly a good hire,” Calhoun said. “He’s accomplished some things already. … He’s got pedigree and he’s proven already he’s a very good coach. I’ve watched him coach and coached against him when he was at Wagner. He’s always had great respect for our program. I think he’ll do a terrific job.”

Hurley, the 19th coach in the program’s history but just the third since 1986, will bring at least one member of his staff to UConn.

Tom Moore, who just completed his first season as Hurley’s assistant, is returning to Storrs. He spent 13 seasons as an assistant on Calhoun’s staff and served as Quinnipiac’s head coach for 10 seasons.

He had a front row seat to watch Hurley guide the Rams to their second straight NCAA tournament berth, the program’s first Atlantic 10 regular season title and a 26-8 overall record. Hurley was named the conference’s coach of the year.

At URI, Hurley went 113-82 overall. He’s 151-105 in his collegiate head coaching career that includes a stop at Wagner where he turned around the program in just two seasons.

“He’s very bright,” Moore said. “He’s got a great basketball mind and a quick basketball mind. He builds great relationships with his players. He’s very tough and very intense and very focused on his team. He’s built a great culture at URI. It was really nice for me to step into that this year. … It was great on so many levels. He just did a really good job.”

URI Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn said in a statement that Hurley “brought URI to unprecedented heights, and he leaves the program a far better place that it was when he arrived.”

Hurley’s recruiting skills will be immediately put to the test, as he’ll try to sell his vision to the current players on the UConn roster. He’ll also reach out to incoming recruits — forward Emmitt Matthews, Jr., of Tacoma, Wash., and big man Lukas Kisunas of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Highly regarded point guard James Akinjo asked for and received his release shortly after Ollie’s firing on March 10.

The rebuilding job at UConn may take some time as the Huskies need a talent upgrade.

The Huskies suffered through two straight losing seasons for the first time since 1985-86 and 1986-87. They’ve earned just one NCAA berth in the last four seasons since winning the program’s fourth national title in 2014.

Benedict has faith that Hurley is the right man for the job.

“Coach Hurley is the absolute right fit for this University, its student-athletes, and UConn Nation,” Benedict said in a release. “We were impressed with his turnarounds at Wagner and Rhode Island and his prior success at St. Benedict’s. His proven track record of developing student-athletes and preparing them for productive lives both in and outside of basketball perfectly aligns with UConn’s values.”

g.keefe@theday.com