A day to look forward for Hurley and the Huskies
STORRS – For the first time in 32 years, the UConn men’s basketball program hired a new head coach from outside the school.
There was Jim Calhoun, then former point guard and assistant coach at the time Kevin Ollie. And now, from Rhode Island, by way of Wagner, former Seton Hall guard Dan Hurley. UConn and its fans may not be use to this. But Hurley is. He knows how to come into a program, clean it up, and start winning.
After two straight losing seasons, including this recently concluded 14-18 campaign with eight torturous 20-or-more-point losses, the Huskies are desperate. Hurley, though, is confident. That was clear Friday when he was introduced as coach at the Werth Family Champions Center.
"I am very comfortable, obviously, taking on programs that have fallen on hard times," said Hurley, who signed a 6-year, $18-million dollar contract. "This is nowhere near the situations that I had at Wagner and Rhode Island. It is not the same rebuild as the last two that I have taken over. At a place like this, with all the resources and tradition, I think I can get things moving a lot quicker."
Hurley’s success has been well documented. In his second year at Wagner, his team went 25-6. At Rhode Island, the Rams won at least 23 games in three of the last four seasons. They lost last week to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, wrapping up a 26-8 campaign.
He picked UConn over Pittsburgh and an offered contract extension at Rhode Island. His first chore is getting right out on the recruiting trail to find talent to mix with the holdovers from this past season’s roster. Whether or not that will include point guard Jalen Adams has not been determined. Adams spoke to the media Friday and said he has not made a decision yet on his future.
Hurley also went through a coaching change when he was a player at Seton Hall when P.J. Carlesimo left for the Portland Trail Blazers. Future UConn assistant George Blaney coached Hurley during his final two seasons in New Jersey.
“It’s a healing process for them right now. I know what they’re looking for,” Hurley said. “I hope they came into the team meeting and the individual meetings with an open mind. I think the quality of the program, the quality of the staff and the way we’re going to go about things day-to-day with them in terms of their development are things that are going to re-energize them in their careers. They’re hurting, they lost the coach and the staff that recruited them, but I’ve been in this situation before. The faster I build the relationships with them, the more comfortable they’re going to be.”
The event on Friday was a typical introduction press conference. School President Susan Herbst made an opening speech that was met with applause from the boosters and fans on hand. Athletic Director David Benedict made a special emphasis on the word “elite” when describing the program’s current ambition. And Hurley opened up and uttered “wow” three times in his first two sentences.
Ollie was mentioned briefly by Benedict when the 2014 national title was mentioned. Jim Calhoun, Hurley’s father and legendary high school basketball coach Bob Hurley Sr., and all members of the current Huskies were on hand.
Dan Hurley made certain to make a public statement to his new players, who were each uniformed in a white Nike UConn polo and dark pants.
"We'll begin by building a championship culture with the men over there," Hurley stated to them. "We met and we talked about what my expectations would be for them between now and March next year. The sky is the limit for that group. I think all these guys understand the program they're in, the prestige, the tradition, the responsibility that comes with UConn.”
It was a day to look forward and Hurley, based off his resume, looks like the perfect hire. There are no guarantees, though. Just four years ago, no one could’ve envisioned Ollie’s demise after standing on top of the college basketball world in Texas. There’s a lot of work for Hurley to get done. It starts now and will be under a very bright spotlight come November.