Dan Hurley seen as a home run hire for UConn

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley disagrees with a foul called during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament second-round game against Duke, in Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Duke won 87-62. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley disagrees with a foul called during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament second-round game against Duke, in Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Duke won 87-62. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Dan Hurley will be officially introduced as UConn's next men's basketball coach at a press conference Friday afternoon.

UConn announced the hiring of Hurley, its top choice to replace fired head coach Kevin Ollie, Thursday morning.

Hurley, who rebuilt the Rhode Island program into an Atlantic 10 Conference power in his six years there, agreed to a six-year deal worth $2.75 million in the first season, according to UConn.

His press conference will begin at 1 p.m. at the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center in Storrs.

“I am honored and excited to become the head coach of the UConn men's basketball program and I would like to thank President (Susan) Herbst and (athletic director) David Benedict for this tremendous opportunity,” Hurley said in a released statement. “This program, which is part of one of the top public universities in the country, has a championship history and wonderful support from a passionate fan base. I look forward to continuing this proud tradition.”

Hurley, 45, appears to be a home run hire.

A New Jersey native, Hurley watched UConn grow into a national power under Jim Calhoun. He played against the Huskies while at Seton Hall during the Big East glory days, coached against them as an assistant at Rutgers and head coach at Wagner. He also ran a successful program at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey.

So Hurley clearly understands the UConn program and its tradition.

A source told The Day early in the process that Hurley favored UConn over Pittsburgh, which offered him a multi-year deal worth over $3 million per year to fill its vacancy. Rhode Island extended a raise and perks to Hurley in an attempt to keep him.

But a chance to coach at UConn was too hard for Hurley to resist. Hurley wanted his next job to be at a school where he had a chance to win a national championship, a source said.

Hurley informed his URI players of his decision early Thursday morning, according to the Providence Journal.

“I know it's always been his dream job,” said George Blaney, who coached Hurley for two years at Seton Hall before eventually joining Calhoun's staff at UConn. “He grew up with all the success that UConn had. He really appreciated what Jim did there and what kind of program they had and what kind of following the state had for the program.

“I think it was really terrific that he was able to get the job. … He knows how to build a program and rebuild one in this case. It's a perfect job for him and perfect selection for UConn. He's got great passion for the game and he understands the game and teaches it exceptionally well, which is what I think makes it a good marriage.”

Hurley also received a glowing endorsement from Calhoun, whose known the Hurley family — father Bob Hurley, Sr., is a Hall of Fame coaching legend and older brother Bobby, a former All-American guard at Duke, is the head coach at Arizona State — for years.

Calhoun visited a Rhode Island practice last fall and spent about an hour talking to Hurley afterward.

Hurley possesses some of the same coaching personality traits as Calhoun. He has a reputation for being intense, demanding and bringing the best out of his players as well as being a strong recruiter. He ran a guard-oriented attack at Rhode Island and stressed a defensive mindset.

“He's clearly a good hire,” Calhoun said. “He's accomplished some things already. … He's got pedigree and he's proven already he's a very good coach. I've watched him coach and coached against him when he was at Wagner. He's always had great respect for our program. I think he'll do a terrific job.”

Hurley, the 19th coach in the program's history but just the third since 1986, will bring at least one member of his staff to UConn.

Tom Moore, who just completed his first season as Hurley's assistant, is returning to Storrs. He spent 13 seasons as an assistant on Calhoun's staff and served as Quinnipiac's head coach for 10 seasons.

He had a front row seat to watch Hurley guide the Rams to their second straight NCAA tournament berth, the program's first Atlantic 10 regular season title and a 26-8 overall record. Hurley was named the conference's coach of the year.

At URI, Hurley went 113-82 overall. He's 151-105 in his collegiate head coaching career that includes a stop at Wagner where he turned around the program in just two seasons.

“He's very bright,” Moore said. “He's got a great basketball mind and a quick basketball mind. He builds great relationships with his players. He's very tough and very intense and very focused on his team. He's built a great culture at URI. It was really nice for me to step into that this year. … It was great on so many levels. He just did a really good job.”

URI Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn said in a statement that Hurley "brought URI to unprecedented heights, and he leaves the program a far better place that it was when he arrived."

Hurley's recruiting skills will be immediately put to the test, as he'll try to sell his vision to the current players on the UConn roster. He'll also reach out to incoming recruits — forward Emmitt Matthews, Jr., of Tacoma, Wash., and big man Lukas Kisunas of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Highly regarded point guard James Akinjo asked for and received his release from his letter of intent shortly after Ollie's firing on March 10.

The rebuilding job at UConn may take some time as the Huskies need a talent upgrade.

The Huskies suffered through two straight losing seasons for the first time since 1985-86 and 1986-87. They've earned just one NCAA berth in the last four seasons since winning the program's fourth national title in 2014.

Benedict has faith that Hurley is the right man for the job.

“Coach Hurley is the absolute right fit for this University, its student-athletes, and UConn Nation,” Benedict said in a release. “We were impressed with his turnarounds at Wagner and Rhode Island and his prior success at St. Benedict's. His proven track record of developing student-athletes and preparing them for productive lives both in and outside of basketball perfectly aligns with UConn's values.”

g.keefe@theday.com 

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley watches play in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley watches play in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

DAN HURLEY FILE

AGE: 45

ROOTS: Native of Jersey City, N.J.

FAMILY: Wife Andrea, sons Danny and Andrew; father Bob Sr., Hall of Famer, former coach at St. Anthony Prep in Jersey City; brother, Bobby, All-American point guard at Duke, head coach at Arizona State

EDUCATION: 1996 graduate of Seton Hall

COACHING RESUME: Last six years at Rhode Island, two seasons at Wagner (2010-12), nine years at St. Benedict's Prep, Newark, N.J. (2001-2010), Rutgers assistant coach (1997-2001), assistant at St. Anthony (1996-97) under his dad

QUOTABLE: "He knows how to build a program and rebuild one in this case. It's a perfect job for him and perfect selection for UConn."

— George Blaney, Hurley's coach at Seton Hall and former UConn assistant

"Danny is one of the best young coaches not only in the northeast but the country."

— Tom Moore, former URI and UConn assistant who will return to Storrs with Hurley

"We're thrilled to name Dan Hurley as our next coach. I never doubted for a moment that UConn would be able to attract a coach of Dan's talent."

— UConn president Susan Herbst

NOTEWORTHY: 19th coach in program history, first hire outside of UConn basketball family since Calhoun took over in 1986. ... Went from winning eight games first season at URI to at least 25 in last two. ... Averaged 22 wins in last four seasons. ... Only URI coach to win in consecutive NCAA trips, beating Creighton in 2017 and Oklahoma in 2018. Eliminated by Duke last weekend. ... Set a program record for wins (25) at Wagner. ... Scored 1,070 career points at Seton Hall. ... Teamed with older brother Bobby to win a high school national championship in 1989. ... Hurley one year older than Calhoun when the former Northeastern coach was hired at UConn. ... Once roomed with Calhoun's son, Jeff, at Five Star basketball camp. ... Big believer in importance of practice time and player development. ... Demanding, driven, defensive-minded coach.. ... Regularly practices meditation and yoga.

— Gavin Keefe

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