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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Dan Hurley’s obsession with basketball has led to UConn’s back-to-back national titles, now a $50-million contract

    UConn head coach Dan Hurley celebrates after the Huskies captured the national championship April 8 in Glendale, Ariz. (Brynn Anderson/AP Photo)
    UConn head coach Dan Hurley talks to his players during a timeout during a first-round game against Stetson in the NCAA tournament March 22. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

    Storrs — Every waking moment, Dan Hurley is laser-focused on his UConn basketball team.

    Nothing distracts him. Not even being courted by the Los Angeles Lakers, or contract negotiations with UConn. He’s dealt with both potential distractions in the last month or so.

    On Tuesday, Hurley met with the media in the Werth Center lobby to talk about his new six-year, $50 million deal and his Huskies.

    “That’s not something that I obsess over,” Hurley said about his contract. “If anything, I drag my feet because I just didn’t want to look at it or read it or deal with it.

    “We’ve been so focused on the basketball part. But it’s nice that it is over.”

    Hurley’s obsession with his program has led to back-to-back national championships. It also led to him being one of the highest paid coaches in college basketball.

    He’s grateful and thankful for the trust UConn has put in him.

    “To be rewarded the way that they’ve rewarded me and my family just means a lot,” Hurley said. “It’s humbling. … What I have now stature-wise and financially, that’s just a byproduct of every single day trying to run a championship organization and then just every single day trying to get better as a coach, every aspect of it.”

    Hurley took an old-school route up the coaching ladder, starting with his first head coaching job in 2001 at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., where he also worked as a high school history teacher.

    Every step on his head coaching journey represented an upgrade. In college, he went from lower Division I (Wagner) to mid-major (Rhode Island) to an elite level at UConn.

    Hurley, 51, is proud of the example that he’s set for his family — wife Andrea, sons Danny and Andrew.

    “My career has been unique for college coaches,” Hurley said. “My family has seen the grind. My wife and my two sons, I’ve been able to model for them what it’s like to work hard through your 20s, 30s and 40s. As you’re hitting your 50s now, you’re at the top of your profession.

    “I think it’s a great example for people and it’s a great example for my family and my sons.”

    Associate head coach Kimani Young, assistants Luke Murray and Tom Moore have been by Hurley’s side for all of his first six years at UConn.

    It is important to Hurley that his coaching staff is rewarded for their contributions to UConn’s success. So Young, Murray and Moore also received new contracts and salary bumps.

    Hurley admits he’s not easy to work for given his demanding, intense style.

    “I’m just so careful about who I hire,” Hurley said. “I always have been. We share the same obsession with our work. Particularly with Luke and Kimani. … I work really well with staff members that obsess over their job like I do, so that’s a great starting point.

    “I would say with Luke and Kimani, there’s not any areas where they’re weak. … Those two guys are just super well-rounded. Tom is a vet and a four-time national champ with head coaching experience, so he balances us off. Tom’s personality blends well with us three other guys because Tom is like that voice of reason.”

    With the new contract talk done, Hurley turned to his thoughts about his basketball team on Tuesday. Players are returning to campus after a break to begin their second summer session.

    Hurley is introducing five newcomers to the mix: transfers Aidan Mahaney (St. Mary’s) and Tarris Reed Jr. (Michigan) and incoming freshmen Liam McNeeley, Ahmed Nowell and Isaiah Abraham.

    Competition will be fierce for playing time, especially for the fourth and fifth starting spots as well as the first player off the bench.

    “I think overall we’re of a similar talent-level in terms of what the group looks like,” Hurley said. “You can see some real potential there.”

    The Huskies will start their second summer session with Alex Karaban coming back from an ankle injury — he’s already working out again after spending two weeks with his foot in a boot — while McNeeley, a promising forward, is sidelined for a couple of weeks.

    McNeeley called Hurley at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July with the injury news.

    “We have to get healthy,” Hurley said. “Alex is back doing stuff individually. But Liam took an ankle sprain working out in Texas, so he’ll miss a couple of weeks. Getting these summer reps is so important, so we’ll push these workouts back as far as we can and try to buy some time for Liam.

    “We just want to get a head start and work harder than what we think other programs are doing so we can gain a bigger advantage on people that aren’t doing what we’re doing this summer.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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