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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Hurley’s decision will have a seismic impact on the UConn basketball program

    UConn head coach Dan Hurley reacts during the first half of the NCAA college Final Four championship basketball game against Purdue, Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
    UConn head coach Dan Hurley embraces forward Alex Karaban (11) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game against Alabama at the Final Four, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson )

    The day before the news sent shock waves through the basketball world, Dan Hurley sounded like a guy with nothing but the future of his UConn program on his mind.

    Hurley talked about his team’s first few summer workouts, his new players and striving for a historic third straight national championship at the UConn Coaches Road Show Wednesday night in Stamford.

    “The hard part right now is the last team that I saw play was so much better than the team that I just saw in practice,” Hurley said. “When you coach the national championship game, then the next first thing you see on the court is your new team playing together for the first time, it looks bad compared to what we just saw.”

    Things have drastically changed since then.

    By Thursday morning, ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Lakers were aggressively pursuing Hurley to be their next head coach. Hurley spoke with his team about his discussions with one of the NBA’s storied franchises.

    Hurley traveled to the West Coast on Friday to meet with Los Angeles owner Jeanie Buss and vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka about the job.

    Likely within the next several days, UConn will learn if it will lose its two-time national championship coach.

    Hurley’s decision will have a seismic impact on the program.

    If he stays in Storrs, it will go back to business as usual for the Huskies. Hurley restocked the roster with talent and UConn is expected to be a top five team next season. A lucrative new contract also is in the works for Hurley.

    If he decides to head to the NBA, UConn will undergo some program-altering changes.

    Athletic director David Benedict will have to move fast to replace Hurley. He’ll have two good options in associate head coach Kimani Young and assistant Luke Murray, both of whom Hurley regularly raves about and considers future head coaches. Or Benedict could pursue a coach from outside the program, but that may be difficult given the time of year and potential expensive buyout cost.

    The roster also will likely suffer some losses. Players will have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal.

    Until decision day comes, the UConn fan base will be holding its collective breath.

    Imagine how the players must be feeling.

    Earlier this week, the Huskies began their summer team workouts, the first step in building toward what they hope is another run at a national championship. A recent video on the UConn men’s basketball Instagram page showing a practice includes a shot of Hurley in full coaching mode.

    Transfers Aidan Mahaney and Tarris Reed Jr. and freshmen Liam McNeeley, Ahmad Nowell and Isaiah Abraham arrived on campus just last week. Hurley is a major reason why they all chose UConn.

    Alex Karaban recently decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season after exploring his NBA Draft possibilities. Karaban and fellow returning players Samson Johnson, Hassan Diarra, Solo Ball, Jaylin Stewart, Jayden Ross and Youssouf Singare have formed tight bonds with their passionate head coach.

    Now they’re all waiting to see if their basketball world will be turned upside down or not.

    While Hurley’s success as a program builder and player development expertise make him an extremely desirable candidate for any NBA team – and he’s expressed desire to coach at the professional level someday – nobody saw this coming just a few days ago.

    Certainly not the fans that showed up for the UConn Coaches Road Show on Wednesday and posed for pictures with Hurley.

    Hurley appeared to only have UConn basketball on his mind.

    “Three practices already and building it up,” Hurley said. “(Wednesday) was probably the most intense and the first time they saw the coaches not pleased. It’s a nice message that you want to send occasionally during the summer. It’s going to take them a little bit of time to adjust. We’re pushing them hard this summer to speed up the learning curve.”

    The adjustment may end up being bigger than anyone ever expected.

    g.keefe@theday.com

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