STORRS - Dan Hurley says he has landed at his dream coaching destination.
Hurley was introduced Friday as the University of Connecticut’s 19th men’s basketball coach, replacing Kevin Ollie, who was fired earlier this month amid an NCAA investigation and after a second consecutive losing season.
The 45-year-old Hurley, who left Rhode Island after six years and two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, has agreed to a six-year incentive-laced deal. He will have a base salary of $400,000 but will make at least $2.75 million in his first season, with supplemental income from media fees, speaking appearances and other perks. He could make up to $3.5 million in the contract’s final year.
He also has a chance to earn up to another $1 million a year for reaching certain athletic and academic goals.
But Hurley said the decision to come to UConn was not about money. It was about the opportunity to take the helm of a “storied program” that has won four national championships over the past 20 years.
“It’s a place that I always hoped I’d have a chance to coach and it’s like a dream come true,” he said.
Hurley, who played against the Huskies at Seton Hall in the 1990s, regaled the media with stories of being schooled on the court by the likes of Ray Allen and Chris Smith. Hurley said he modeled his coaching style in large part after UConn’s former Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, and plans to bring back that hard-nosed “championship culture.”
“For me, that centers around being the hardest working, hardest playing team in the country,” he said. “That’s our goal from when you see us opening night in November. The product you see on the court, there’s not going to be a more connected team. There’s not going to be a harder playing team. There’s not going to be a team in the country that is more committed to winning.”
Hurley said he shared that vision earlier Friday in a meeting with UConn’s players. He said he hopes to have most of them back next season, telling them they can leave behind a much different legacy than they have now.
The Huskies went 14-18 this past season and 16-17 in 2016-17 after going 30 years without a losing season.
Junior guard Jalen Adams said he hasn’t made a final decision about his future, but was impressed with Hurley and happy with the hire.
“I know a lot of guys at URI and all of those guys rave about him, talk about how he’s a great guy and a great coach and he pushes you to the limits,” Adams said. “I think that will be great for me personally and I think it will be even better for our whole team. I think our team just needs to be pushed and needs someone who will demand them to be a champion.”
David Benedict, UConn’s athletic director, said there was never a question of whether the school would have the resources to hire a top head coach.
He said there was a brief conversation with Hurley about the NCAA investigation, but it never became a roadblock to the hire. Hurley has the right, under the deal, to extend his contract by an additional year if the school receives sanctions such as a reduction of scholarships.
Benedict declined to discuss Ollie’s decision to appeal his firing “with cause,” which could impact whether UConn will have to pay more than $10 million left on the former coach’s contract.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t have done something that we didn’t feel was within our right to do,” Benedict said.
Former Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore, who was a longtime assistant of Calhoun’s at UConn and was on Hurley’s staff at Rhode Island is expected to join Hurley in Storrs. Kevin Freeman, UConn’s director of basketball administration, was the only member of Ollie’s staff to attend the news conference.
Hurley said he plans to fill out his staff with a diverse group of coaches who can help him recruit in the mid-Atlantic region.
Hurley is the son of Hall of Fame New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley Sr. and the brother of Arizona State coach Bob Hurley.
“Coaches, families trust us with their kids because of the legacy my father has left as a Hall of Famer, but also as a community person who stands for the right things,” Hurley said.