Dan Hurley, head coach of the final four University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies, has officially restored the reality of National Championship aspirations for their fans.
UConn before Dan Hurley
UConn Men’s basketball was once a powerhouse program, winning National Championships against teams like Duke and Kentucky, among others. They’ve won four titles since 1999, the most of any school in the country during that timespan. But since their last title in 2014, they’ve been nothing short of abysmal. Following the retirement of legendary head coach Jim Calhoun, UConn turned to former player Kevin Ollie to lead the program. Ollie was an assistant on the 2011 NCAA Championship staff.
Ollie was successful as the head coach initially, leading the team to it’s fourth national title in 2014. That team was led by Shabazz Napier, who won Most Outstanding Player. Everything was pointing upward for UConn… until suddenly it wasn’t. Ollie signed a five-year extension, but was investigated in March 2018. He was fired by the school as a result of multiple violations including illegal summer practices, recruiting violations and allowing a participating player on the team that wasn’t enrolled in the school.
Hurley was hired in 2018, with his work cut out for him. After failing to reach the NCAA tournament in three years (partially due to being on probation), the Huskies re-joined the Big East Conference in 2020. Everyone still affiliated with the program was hoping to put the past behind them.
Hurley’s path to UConn
Hurley played his college ball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey in the 1990’s. Immediately after finishing his playing days, he became a coach. Hurley spent some years coaching high school with a short stint as an assistant at Rutgers University. He coached at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey prior to his first head coaching job at Wagner University.
His coaching experience and overall time spent in the state of New Jersey has proved crucial to recruiting the area well. Hurley consistently has numerous players from the tri-state area, boasting talented lineups. Following a strong second season with Wagner, where they finished 25-6, good for second in the Northeast Conference, Hurley fled for Rhode Island.
In his six seasons, his last two were most memorable. He finished his tenure their with two consecutive Atlantic 10 regular season titles, and a conference tournament win. Hurley took over Rhode Island at a major low point. He turned that program around and brought them to the round of 32 two consecutive years. Finally, he got the call from UConn and never looked back. A six-year deal gave him a chance to repeat his success, but this time, at a major program.
In his fifth year, Hurley has brought UConn back to the final four with a chance to secure the school’s fifth National Championship. It would be their fifth title in 25 years, and with a third different coach.
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