Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Friday, July 12, 2024 77° Today's Paper


Sports BreakingTop News

Why Dan Hurley decided he couldn’t leave UConn for the Lakers

USA TODAY
                                UConn Huskies head coach Dan Hurley speaks to a large crowd of fans outside the XL Center after the team’s victory parade on April 13.
1/1
Swipe or click to see more

USA TODAY

UConn Huskies head coach Dan Hurley speaks to a large crowd of fans outside the XL Center after the team’s victory parade on April 13.

STORRS, Conn. >> Dan Hurley was tempted by the Los Angeles Lakers’ organization and the head coaching opportunity he was presented, but there were ultimately too many reasons to stay in Connecticut.

Still weighing his options on Sunday, Hurley made a call to Alex Karaban, the forward he’d just convinced a week earlier to turn down guaranteed money in the NBA Draft and stay as a leader in Storrs. Hurley wanted to make sure the team was in a good head space after abruptly hearing the news, but he also summoned advice.

“It was an open conversation,” said Karaban, who was playing NBA 2k, the basketball video game, when his phone rang. “We were open about everything. He was open about how he was feeling, he still wasn’t decided yet. I just told him, ‘Whatever you do, I’m going to be happy for you. Don’t make your decision based off me or anybody in the locker room because everyone wants you to consider and take the job if you choose to.’”

Hurley didn’t take the six-year, $70 million contract offer, or Karaban’s advice.

He couldn’t get the faces from last Thursday’s team meeting, when he confirmed hours after it was reported that he was considering the job, out of his head.

“When I talked to them on Thursday to tell them I was gonna consider it and go out there and take on the process, I didn’t like the faces that looked at me,” Hurley said today. “There’s images of things that will always be embedded in your mind, and just sharing that initial news, I didn’t like the way they looked at me when I told them I was gonna consider it. I’ve enjoyed their faces since Monday better.”

The only reaction to the news that might’ve been worse than what he saw that morning came from his wife, Andrea, whose desire to stay in the Northeast was what he pointed to as he laughed off the potential opportunity to take the Kentucky job in April.

“She was angry,” he said. “Anger turned to tears. She wasn’t happy about it because we all love it here. When you love it and you’re so happy, you don’t want that type of disruption, especially one that’s special like the Lakers.”

He consulted the rest of his family as well, sitting down with his sons, Danny and Andrew, and talking with his parents and his brother, Bobby, throughout the weekend. All of them wanted him to stay.

But when the Lakers call, it’s in a coach’s best interest to listen.

The chance to lead that franchise and one of the game’s greatest players in LeBron James, who did have some communication with Hurley and gave his approval over text, was appealing. But ultimately, it was too soon to leave the program he resuscitated from a 16-17 record in his first season to the 68-11 record over the last two years, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contend for three NCAA championships in a row.

Hurley, who just finished the second year of a six-year, $32.1 million contract extension he signed after the 2023 national championship, will soon finalize another extension that would put him among the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. He said today that he was “flattered” by what was put in front of him in terms of his salary, and is working out other aspects regarding NIL and his staff.

UConn will again be one of the top five teams in the nation entering the 2024-25 season.

“This could really be one of our most talented teams, and I really see it just from a standpoint of how we compete against each other every day, how much work we put in and really we’ve just got to continue to build and continue to understand the concepts,” Karaban said. “I think we’ll be right there again.”

Back in Storrs, as Hurley flew out West, players-only meetings were held to discuss the potential outcomes, some more concerned about the future than others.

“It wasn’t really being strategic with anything, it was more so just trying to get everybody to stay together no matter what,” Karaban said. “We found that to be super important and just talk things out, if anyone’s got any concerns just talk it out. And after Coach did call me on Sunday, I talked to the team, too, just being like, ‘Relax, everything’s gonna be all good, he’s still deciding.’ We ultimately didn’t know until we had that team meeting on Monday.”

Andrea wanted to be there to see the reactions and hand out hugs before an emotional, energy-filled practice that afternoon.

Then Hurley got back onto a plane and back to business recruiting at the NBA Top 100 camp in Orlando, Fla.

“This was a great test and a great exercise for me, for how I feel about UConn and how I feel about being a college coach and all of the things that I value. Situations like this come up for you to test your value system and the things that are important to you. In a way this was a great opportunity for self-reflection about the things that are most important in coaching in my career,” Hurley said.

“In the end it wasn’t my ego that mattered the most, it was family and it was the people here at UConn, it was the players here at UConn. A chance to three-peat. There was definitely the competitive things about trying to continue to do things that either haven’t been done here or in college basketball in a long time, but it was just the relationships, the impact that you have on young people. Those are the things that I love right now.”

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.