Former Huskies believe Hurley is the right coach to fix basketball program

UConn men's basketball coach Dan Hurley, left, talks with former UConn assistant George Blaney on Friday night during the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)
UConn men's basketball coach Dan Hurley, left, talks with former UConn assistant George Blaney on Friday night during the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)

Mohegan — Before the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Basketball Game on Friday night, Dan Hurley walked out onto the Mohegan Sun Arena court to greet an old friend.

Hurley, the man hired to restore the UConn basketball program to an elite level, received little attention from the crowd.

Fans were too busy checking out former Husky stars. They called out to Ray Allen, who'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month. Nearby, Rip Hamilton, a Final Four most valuable player and NBA world champion, chatted with his 1999 national championship teammates Rashamel Jones and Jake Voskuhl. Niels Giffey, a two-time national champion, caught up with Calhoun, the legendary coach.

Meanwhile, Hurley stood off to the side talking with George Blaney. A former UConn associate head coach on Calhoun's staff, Blaney coached Hurley at Seton Hall.

Hurley didn't go totally unnoticed. Calhoun introduced Hurley, who sat in the stands, to the crowd.

The pre-game conversation turned to Hurley, who was hired in March after Kevin Ollie was fired. Hurley received glowing endorsements from several former Huskies.

"I really think coach Hurley is the guy for this job and he's the one who is going to turn this thing around," Rodney Purvis said. "I'm really excited for this season."

Daniel Hamilton spent some time with Hurley at UConn on Friday.

"I just hope coach Hurley can come in and get the program back like it was...," Hamilton said. "I talked to him (Friday) and I went to practice. He seems like a real good guy and good coach, so I'm excited about that."

Both Purvis (2014-17) and Hamilton (2014-16), former teammates, arrived in Storrs with the Huskies coming off a national championship. Winning an American Athletic Conference tournament title and qualifying for the NCAA tournament in 2016 was one of UConn's few highlights during their careers.

Hurley takes over a program that has suffered through two straight losing seasons for the first time in 30 years. That last happened during Dom Perno's last season (1985-86) and Calhoun's first season (1986-87) in Storrs.

Calhoun has faith that Hurley is the right man to lift UConn out of its funk.

"From watching the kids work out, he's maybe the kind of coach we need right now," Calhoun said. "I always go back to Howie (Dickenman's) statement — 'You know the first time you get thrown out at the Civic Center, you'll get a standing ovation.' Dom was a very good coach in a tough circumstance. But I was a little different personality."

Hurley's personality also is a little different than his predecessor's.

He's been compare to a young Jim Calhoun.

Calhoun says Hurley is his own man.

"I wouldn't do that to anybody...," Calhoun of the comparison. "The important thing is, Danny is Danny. He's not going to be Jim Calhoun, he's not going to be anybody but Danny.

"... We're all different. I think the thing that he has going for him — and it has nothing to do with Kevin, nothing to do with me, nothing to do with anybody, it's got to do with him — he's got pedigree. He grew up in the game. He had a tough time. The guy that really got him back to playing basketball is here, George Blaney.

"So I think he's got a great chance because he knows what it is to be a coach. ... I have great confidence in him. He's a very, very good coach. I told him, 'You're not a great coach, otherwise what I am going to say about Dean Smith and those guys.' But he's a very good coach who's done well thus far."

g.keefe@theday.com

UConn men's basketball coach Dan Hurley, center, talks with former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, right, as former UConn assistant George Blaney looks on Friday night during the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)
UConn men's basketball coach Dan Hurley, center, talks with former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, right, as former UConn assistant George Blaney looks on Friday night during the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)

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