Dan Hurley turns down Los Angeles Lakers’ head coaching job to stay with UConn Huskies

The Los Angeles Lakers offered Dan Hurley what would have seemed like a basketball coach’s dream: a chance to coach one of the world’s most popular franchises, possibly an opportunity to work with LeBron James and a salary that would have doubled his current one.

Hurley passed.

He’s staying at Connecticut, he said Monday, turning down the Lakers and ending several days of speculation about his future. The lure of trying to win a third consecutive NCAA championship with the Huskies, evidently, was just too strong.

“Our MVP Coach is staying in CT,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont posted on social media.

ESPN first reported Hurley’s decision, plus was first to report last week that he was a serious candidate for the Lakers job. Hurley met with Lakers officials — owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka among them — in Los Angeles on Friday, then spent the weekend weighing his options.

The word came Monday. The Huskies had practice Monday afternoon, and before that session in Storrs, Connecticut, Hurley gave the world that the players — and probably every basketball fan in the state — wanted to hear. The NBA can wait.

“I am humbled by this entire experience,” Hurley said in a statement distributed by UConn. “At the end of the day, I am extremely proud of the championship culture we have built at Connecticut. We met as a team before today’s workout and our focus right now is getting better this summer and connecting as a team as we continue to pursue championships.”

It seems likely that Hurley will soon be richly rewarded for staying at UConn. Lamont, who was in contact with Hurley throughout the waeekend, told reporters Monday that the state will “make sure he’s the top-paid college coach.” Hurley got a six-year, $32.1 million deal a year ago after the Huskies won the 2023 NCAA title; another new deal seems certain now.

Hurley had the option of taking over one of the most famed franchises in pro sports, not to mention perhaps the chance to coach James, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. But in the end, his stay in the coaching version of the transfer portal was brief — and he will remain at UConn, where he has gone 68-11 over the last two title-winning seasons.

On the way to those two titles, the fiery Hurley and the tough-as-nails Huskies have left no doubt — 12-0 in NCAA tournament games, winning by a staggering average of 21.7 points per contest. UConn will try to become the second program to win three straight men’s national titles; UCLA, the only men’s program to do better than going back-to-back, won seven in a row from 1967 through 1973.

Hurley will chase something rare by turning down the opportunity to something just as rare: leaving the reigning NCAA champions for the NBA.

The last time a coach made such a move was after the 1987-88 season, when Kansas won the NCAA title and Larry Brown decided to leave for the NBA. He took over the San Antonio Spurs, and Roy Williams became coach of the Jayhawks.

The Spurs gave Brown $3.5 million for five years, which was enormous money at the time yet nothing compared to what Hurley would have commanded from the Lakers — likely more than $10 million per season, or about double what he currently makes at UConn. And Brown went on to become the only coach to win both an NCAA title and an NBA championship; he got that title with Detroit in 2004.

Hurley had the chance to try to follow that same path. Hurley is 141-58 in his six seasons at UConn and 292-163 overall in 14 seasons as a collegiate coach — adding in his years at Wagner and Rhode Island.

He’s gone through four losing seasons in that span; his first year at Wagner, his first two at Rhode Island and his first year at UConn. Once he gets it rolling, the wins just pile up: take away how those stops started, and Hurley’s record is 241-90 — a .728 winning percentage.

So, he remains in Storrs, just like women’s coach Geno Auriemma. UConn signed Auriemma last week to a five-year extension worth nearly $19 million.

“We’re going to try to replicate it again,” Hurley said in April after winning the second straight national title. “We’re going to maintain a championship culture. We’re bringing in some very talented high school freshmen. Our returning players, through player development, will take a big jump. We’ll strategically add through the portal. I don’t think that we’re going anywhere.”

The Lakers almost got him to change his mind.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA


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