Dan Hurley and March Madness Champs UConn Aren’t Done Dancing

Hurley is looking to repeat as a national champ with the Huskies...again

May 10, 2024 6:45 am
Coach Dan Hurley of the Huskies cuts down the net.
Dan Hurley is not done howling as the coach of the Huskies.
Chris Coduto/Getty

Entering UConn’s initial Final Four matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide in early April, it had been 383 days since the Huskies trailed in the second half of an NCAA tournament game, That was in the second round of the 2023 edition of March Madness when the Huskies fell behind by one point against Saint Mary’s. The lead lasted for 38 seconds. UConn went on to beat the Gaels 70-55, and the Huskies have never trailed after halftime and never failed to win by more than double digits in their 10 tournament game since.

During that reign of dominance, which has accounted for 12 straight tournament wins overall and back-to-back NCAA national championships for the Huskies, UConn head coach Dan Hurley has been the one yelling “mush.” Well, maybe not “mush” exactly, but the 51-year-old has certainly been yelling, in between sips of the caffeine-infused Bai WonderWater he endorses.

“I’ve also loved superheroes like The Hulk because I’m a regular guy, but I become a green monster when the game starts,” Hurley tells InsideHook. “When most people meet me, they’re like, ‘I can’t believe that’s the same guy I saw on TV fighting with Zach Edey.’ I don’t know. Maybe the caffeine is responsible for the times when I go a little too far. When I’m getting into it with a fan, staring down an opposing player or getting ejected from a game, maybe that’s because I drank the Bai too fast.”

With UConn now top dog in the nation after becoming the first men’s program to repeat as college basketball’s national champion since Florida did it in 2006 and ’07 with Al Forford, don’t expect Hurley to stop what’s been working as the Huskies attempt to three-peat.

“I will be strategic with the transfer portal and build a roster that’s going to give us a chance,” Hurley says. “We made history last year and our mindset right now is to put together a roster that’s going to give us as good a chance as anyone to do things that haven’t been done since John Wooden and UCLA. We certainly have to try to make a run at that. It’s tough to compare to those teams in the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s when they had players for three or four years, but I think in terms of the quality of play in today’s day and age, to play basketball as well as we have, I think it’s a historic team.”

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Making a historic run at a third straight championship would have seemed like a fairytale just three seasons ago after fifth-seeded UConn was bounced in the first round of the ’22 tournament by No. 12 seed New Mexico State. Hurley, who is entering his seventh season at UConn after previously turning around programs at Wagner and Rhode Island, has seen how quickly things can change.

“Not too long ago, two years ago, I hit the lowest of lows, a level of despair and depression, by losing in the first round. Now two years later, our program is considered the best,” Hurley says. “I think it’s a great lesson. Failure, as long as you don’t let it break you, is the best teacher. You need to have the ability to stay with things and press on without losing the core of who you are, but make the subtle adjustments that need to be made so you can reach your best level and succeed. The ability to look in the mirror and make adjustments without straying too much from myself was the secret sauce for me.”

For Hurley, a star player at Seton Hall who was coached by hot-tempered PJ Carlesimo during an age when the Big East was filled with larger-than-life characters, not straying too far meant refusing to abandon the intensity and emotion he showed on the sidelines at a time when many coaches have started taking the passive route to success.

“That’s how I show up and I think my players love that about me and respond positively,” Hurley says. “We have old-school values that revolve around work ethic, accountability and responsibility, things I think are still needed in society. But we play a modern style of basketball, which makes it all work. I think most players who love the game want a coach who’s going to push them to levels they can’t get to themselves. It’s human nature not to be able to push yourself beyond a certain point. Every great performer needs a great coach to push them.”

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