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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Dan Hurley leaving UConn for Lakers would power change in teaching type, for higher or worse

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Dan Hurley should now select his future.

Choice No. 1: Stay at Connecticut and chase the near-impossible feat of a three-peat, doing so whereas working the most effective program and working as the most effective coach in males’s faculty basketball. Robust as it will be to truly pull this off, if he did it, Hurley would clinch all-time iconic standing and match a run final seen by John Robert Picket. If achieved, successful three consecutive NCAA titles would cement Hurley as a top-10 all-time faculty basketball coach.

Choice No. 2: Go away his UConn legacy behind to teach possibly the most effective all-around participant within the historical past of basketball (within the winter of LeBron James’ profession) at possibly probably the most glamorous group in American sports activities, the Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, and in doing so: get a increase that may triple his present wage (simply north of $5 million yearly).

That is what successful back-to-back nationwide championships in probably the most unstable surroundings in faculty sports activities historical past can present you. Up to now 27 months, Hurley has gone from promising coach with an irksome NCAA Event observe file to one of many faces of American basketball success. Now, with the NBA Finals set to tip, abruptly the largest story in sports activities is radiating from the West Coast all the way in which to Storrs, Connecticut, the place the 51-year-old Hurley is on the verge of the largest determination of his profession. It doesn’t matter what he decides within the coming days, he’ll in all probability by no means have one other job supply which means extra and stands to influence the way forward for two grander basketball entities than this one, proper now, with the Huskies and Lakers. 

That Lakers job has been open for slightly greater than a month, by the way in which. Till Thursday morning, there wasn’t a whiff of Hurley’s title being connected to the emptiness. That was till ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped an early morning bombshell report that was worded thusly: “The Los Angeles Lakers are focusing on UConn males’s basketball coach Dan Hurley because the franchise’s subsequent coach and are making ready a large, long-term contract supply to carry the back-to-back NCAA nationwide champion to the NBA.”

“Concentrating on” and “making ready” being the important thing phrases.

Meantime, Hurley has labored the portal, had been ready on his most vital participant, Alex Karaban, to resolve on an NBA determination — and he determined to return to play for Hurley. So, what took so lengthy, L.A.? The main points of that, I suppose, aren’t essential, however they’re attention-grabbing to me. The Lakers might have put the press on Hurley weeks in the past. If something, this appears to be transferring a bit slowly, if certainly they’ve put Hurley above all different candidates for weeks.

With this as backdrop, UConn has been working with Hurley to attempt to safe a brand new contract (after a restructured one was agreed to in 2023, on the heels of Hurley’s first title).

Hurley has not been provided the Lakers job, however the Lakers need to try this, per ESPN’s report, and they also will lastly and formally ship paperwork within the subsequent day or two. The cash will not be going to be what guides Hurley right here. Keep in mind, he would have been provided considerably additional cash to take the Kentucky job in April and he turned that down. 

The picture of Hurley strolling the sidelines, sans necktie, barking at officers … at Enviornment? Image LeBron’s huge arm draped over Hurley, Dan’s glasses slipping to the bridge of his nostril popping out of a timeout down 9 within the third quarter to the Nuggets. Now there’s a picture. Hey, possibly that is going to occur. He is earned the prospect. It will be riveting to observe, as a result of for pretty much as good as Hurley is as a school coach, no person is aware of if it’s going to work within the professionals. The newest instance of a extremely revered and whip-smart X-and-O man leaving the school ranks for the NBA was John Beilein; that was an instantaneous failure.

In fact, Billy Donovan received back-to-back titles earlier than ultimately being satisfied to go away. He is finished properly sufficient within the NBA whereas nonetheless falling properly wanting hitting the success benchmarks he repeatedly achieved with the Florida Gators. (Donovan had a .709 successful share in faculty. Within the NBA, he is at a .556 clip and has solely as soon as made it out of the primary spherical of the NBA playoffs in 9 seasons with Oklahoma Metropolis and Chicago.)

Relaxation assured Hurley will search Donovan’s counsel, along with many others. Jay Wright was by no means persuaded to desert Villanova regardless of a number of NBA alternatives. Similar with Tom Izzo. Coach Ok. (Extra on him beneath.) They’re all Corridor of Famers, simply as Hurley can be at some point. He’ll ultimately be enshrined alongside his father, Bob Hurley Sr., who proved for many years that teaching basketball at an obscenely profitable degree comes down to some unbreakable philosophical tenets.

Hurley’s by no means dropping these traits. They led him to right here, now, the place he’ll be offered with a call that’s as enviable as it’s excruciating and tantalizing. Irrespective of which route he takes, Hurley is assured to go away behind an alternate course that might’ve doubtlessly — not undoubtedly, however possibly — additional enhanced his repute. If he stays at UConn, he’d bypass (no less than for now) the NBA life and the prospect to be one of many few greats to win on the highest degree in faculty and the NBA. Few coaches, ever, have finished that. 

Dan Hurley might chase a historic three-peat if he chooses to stay with UConn. 
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If he goes to the Lakers, Hurley would possible depart UConn behind for good and quit the chance (no less than for now) to make a run at being one of many 10-or-so greatest coaches within the historical past of school basketball. The three-peat run could be off the desk. Plus, if the Lakers job flamed out in two, three or 5 years, what assure would there be {that a} faculty job he would WANT could be ready for him? Hurley and, simply as importantly, his spouse Andrea is not going to be transferring to simply anyplace if one other top-15 faculty gig opens up years from now. 

Hurley is many issues, however one factor he’s not is a chameleon. The person basks in his routine, his habits, his go-tos. Sure, he’s a creature who blossoms in chaos, however can be somebody who craves the consolation of the environment he is aware of greatest to permit him to dominate in these environments. He is an East Coast lifer, a Northeast man deep into his bones. I can not ever think about him residing comfortably in Los Angeles, even when he liked being coach of the Lakers. This can be a man who turned down Pitt for more cash as a result of it did not carry the status nor the geographic familiarity of UConn. 

His teaching type match highschool (St. Benedict’s Prep, in Newark), then it match the NEC (Wagner), then it match the Atlantic 10 (Rhode Island) and now it is grow to be mastered within the Large East at UConn. Can he elevate yet one more degree? This one’s harder than all of the others mixed.

If Hurley chooses the Lakers, nobody might blame him. A job like that has such incredible enticement, but additionally hazards abound. The media market is intense and unrelenting. From an publicity standpoint, it is a job on the extent with the Dallas Cowboys. You are scrutinized each day through the season not simply domestically, however on tv to an viewers of hundreds of thousands. This may take a look at Hurley’s psyche in methods he cannot totally know except he tries and lives it — and will come to remorse. He would not should cope with the portal, however the egos would solely be extra pronounced. He’d have to teach no less than 82 video games as a substitute of a max of 40. There is not any portal, however the squeeze of the season is undoubtedly worse.

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He’d get to teach LeBron James, which has its advantages and downsides. Nobody is aware of how lengthy James plans to proceed to play, so the job could be about teaching the Lakers within the post-LeBron period … if you may make it that far. 

Then, there may be the matter of how Hurley comports himself within the throes of a recreation. His sideline temperament will not be NBA-ready. He is finished a whole lot of work over time on altering his demeanor and decreasing his outbursts, however he’s who he’s. And who he’s will not be like another NBA coach. (Hurley had a number of run-ins with opposing followers simply this previous season.) Personally, I discover Hurley’s in-game reactions to nearly at all times be entertaining and enhancing to the school basketball product. The game advantages from its characters within the teaching ranks and Hurley is as watchable (and typically polarizing) as anybody. 

However he cannot be that within the NBA. That act is not going to fly. 

In faculty, coaches carry a lot of the facility and are the faces of the game. Within the NBA, the gamers are the celebrities and coaches’ futures are largely tied to the relationships they domesticate with their greatest gamers. Hurley will command some respect, notably with an endorsement from LeBron. Can he keep it into 12 months 2, 3, 4? 

Hurley is an intense competitor who has turned UConn into an NBA-like manufacturing unit of expertise and successful. However he isn’t taking orders from his gamers and by no means has. To take this job could be to bear a private evolution that Hurley himself may not be satisfied he can mutate to in posthaste. The Lakers job will include a whole lot of perks, however it might’t present extra consolation or much less strain. If Hurley leaves UConn for L.A., he’ll be opting right into a a lot more durable job with considerably much less job safety. With few exceptions, you’re employed not simply to be fired within the NBA, however normally to be fired briefly order.

What’s simple is how a lot the NBA intrigues Hurley, who burns on aggressive fuels as a lot as any coach you may meet. He is informed me a number of occasions over time that “at some point” he’d possibly like to present the NBA a go. The Knicks job has been THE one, I believe, however the Knicks even have a superb factor going for the primary time in a very long time. Timing is every part. Hurley has stored the door open on the NBA, framing that for down the highway, at the same time as lately as this week. And this is what he informed Dan Patrick lower than two weeks after successful the title in April.

All this reads to me prefer it’s occurring too rapidly for Hurley’s liking, but it surely’s the Lakers, so what do you do? If Hurley takes the job, he’d be the primary sitting coach of a reigning nationwide champion to take action since Larry Brown left Kansas in 1988 to teach the San Antonio Spurs. However Brown was a training nomad, typically to his profit. That is not Hurley.

There have been many references to this being the 20-year anniversary of Mike Krzyzewski famously turning down the Lakers job (and a humongous contract at the moment) to remain at Duke. Coach Ok clearly went on to cement his standing as one of many two greatest coaches in males’s faculty basketball historical past — proper alongside Picket. However there’s one other legendary coach who would possible be in that dialog with Ok and Picket had he not opted to go away a blue blood faculty job for a blue blood NBA job — doing so coming off two straight Last Fours, simply as Hurley is now. 

Hurley’s extra like Rick Pitino. Obsessive about basketball, a relationships-focused coach who loves residing within the fitness center and thrives off working towards along with his gamers. Pitino left Kentucky for the Boston Celtics in 1997. And to this present day, he regrets it, even figuring out now that he needed to take the job again then. This is what Pitino mentioned on the Pardon My Take podcast in March.

“Hindsight’s 2020, if I needed to do it once more, I might in all probability by no means depart Kentucky,” Pitino mentioned. “, Dick Vitale, each time I converse to him, ‘Should you would have stayed at Kentucky, you’d have extra wins than any coach,’ and also you suppose again on that. However I discovered rather a lot. To teach the Boston Celtics, even when you did not do an incredible job, it is simply an excessive amount of. … It was well worth the expertise. But when I needed to do it once more, I had a option to carry again time, I in all probability would have stayed in Kentucky.”

Attention-grabbing feedback to circle again to amid Hurley’s state of affairs now, which is so near Pitino’s 27 years in the past. It is sort of spooky.

Dan Hurley matches faculty. A lot about him — what he represents, how he’s marketed, how he will get on with gamers — is within the faculty mould.

It will be a troublesome blow to varsity hoops if he left, however the recreation can be in a bizarre house amid the ever-shifting panorama of school athletics, which is dictated by the whims and energy struggles of school soccer. However it’s nonetheless an incredible sport with possibly the most effective sporting occasion this nation has to supply and is made higher by guys like Dan Hurley. 

So, Dan, your future awaits. All that hangs within the steadiness is the fortune and futures of two of the largest manufacturers in American sports activities. The hardest decisions typically are available the most effective of occasions. Proper now, no person in basketball has it higher than Hurley. 

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