UConn pushing to make Hurley the program's next basketball coach

Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley takes questions during a news conference on March 14 at Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley takes questions during a news conference on March 14 at Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The Dan Hurley sweepstakes is nearing a conclusion.

UConn is making a hard push to hire Hurley as its next men's basketball coach, according to a source.

The news was first reported by Hearst Connecticut Media and confirmed by The Day.

Pittsburgh also is pursuing Hurley, the University of Rhode Island head coach for the last six seasons, as its top target to fill its vacancy.

ESPN reported that Hurley talked to both UConn and Pittsburgh on Monday and he plans to make a decision after meeting with URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday.

Hurley prefers UConn, a source said, because of his familiarity with the program and its rich tradition.

A New Jersey native, Hurley, 45, guided the Rams to their first Atlantic 10 Conference regular season title this season and second straight NCAA tournament appearance that ended with a round of 32 loss to Duke on Saturday in Pittsburgh. He's gone 112-82 at URI.

Hurley appears to be a perfect fit for the UConn job, which opened up after Kevin Ollie was fired on March 10.

He played at Seton Hall for George Blaney, who went on to become associate head coach on Jim Calhoun's staff in Storrs. He played and coached against the Huskies and also dealt with the program as a high school coach at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey. He also served as an assistant at Rutgers (1997-2001).

On the college level, Hurley has turned around two programs. At Wagner, he led the Seahawks to 25 wins in his second and final season there before being hired at Rhode Island in 2012. The Rams went from eight wins his first season to winning at least 25 games in each of the last two seasons.

Former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore joined Hurley's staff before this season. He's known Hurley for 15 years.

During an interview last summer, Moore gave some insight into Hurley's coaching style.

"I love what he's done with the program," Moore said. "And I'm not surprised what he's done with the program. ... Danny is one of the best young coaches not only in the northeast but the country."

Hurley reminds Moore of another head coach — Calhoun.

"They both have very similar demeanors in terms of intensity and feistiness," Moore said. "They both make it like a 365 day a year fight. I see a lot of (Calhoun) in Danny."

Calhoun attended some of URI's practices this past season.

Hurley's URI contract pays him approximately $1.1 million per season and runs through 2023-24.

There may be a potential stumbling block for UConn in hiring Hurley.

Ollie, who led the Huskies to a national championship in 2014 but suffered through two straight losing seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18, is fighting to collect the roughly $10 million left on his contract.

UConn cited "just cause" as a reason for firing Ollie, pointing to the current NCAA investigation of the men's basketball program and potentially taking the school off the hook for the remaining payout.

A union member of the American Association of University of Professors, Ollie's reportedly due to begin the appeal process this week, expecting to meet with UConn athletic director David Benedict.

That could just be the first step in Ollie's appeal process, so it's difficult to tell when the matter will be resolved and the affect it will have on UConn's offer to Hurley.

In addition, the Providence Journal has reported that Hurley's contract with URI contains a buyout clause of up to $1.5 million.

If Hurley takes the UConn job, Moore is expected to join him in Storrs, according to a source.

g.keefe@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments