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Dan Hurley for President

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It’s not everyday that a person turns down twenty million dollars. But that is exactly what Uconn basketball coach Dan Hurley did when he rejected a $70 million contract by the Los Angeles Lakers. Somehow he’ll squeak by on the $50 million extension his present employer (UCONN) ponied up to keep the New Jersey native where he still lives in the off-season.

Last year, Hurley led the Huskies to a 37-3 record and their second straight national (and fifth overall.)  This is especially incredible considering that Connecticut is the third smallest state in the United States in size (but  29th in population). For the record- Husky players recruited from Connecticut are far and few between.

Speaking of dominance on the coaching level,  let’s not forget the impressive eleven championships for the Lady Huskies led by a guy born in Italy, Geno Auriemma. Not at all pitiful, but he makes less than 4 million a year.  Such is the gulf between coaching men’s and women’s college basketball. For the record. Auriemma had numerous chances to move to elite D1 men’s coaching but refused due to family.

Players salaries are even more drastic where minimum salaries are: NBA $1 million (average salary= $9 million) and the WNBA is about $70,000 (average = $103,000). Bear in mind that the NBA dwarfs the WNBA in size (32 teams compared to 12), amount of players (480 NBA players, compared to 138 women players) and  most importantly, games played.

Not counting playoffs an NBA team plays 82 games, in the WNBA you play 40. Comparable revenue (2023 figures) was NBA $10.6 billion and WNBA $200 million. The reason I bring up these numbers is not to lobby for equal pay or to complain  about the overpaid and overprivileged existence of NBA players in particular, but to highlight the fact that coaching players making that much money can be a complicated nightmare. Especially for the Lakers who are led by the outspoken and indisputable face of the league , King Lebron James.

Getting back to Hurley it probably came down to two things, family and legacy. A poignant quote from FOX SPORTS in 2023 stating  “I don’t have a lot of friends, to be honest. Andrea and my boys are who I have, and they’re my world.” But that isn’t the only reason he stayed at Storrs instead of walking the red carpet in Tinseltown. That and he’s a basketball rat (adores the game).

Family background is key for Hurley. His father  Bob, is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a high school coach (Jersey City, N.J) and his brother, Bob Jr., starred at Duke, and despite a horrific car crash during his rookie year, went on to play five years in the NBA. He is now a coach at Arizona State.

Dan Hurley played point guard at Seton Hall for five years before turning to coaching and eventually lifted Wagner College and University of Rhode Island from doormats to respectability. He got his big break when Uconn fired coach Kevin Ollie for infractions that led to a two year probation. Six years later the Huskies have made four straight NCAA tournament appearances , the last two being crowned champions. No wonder they backed up the Brinks truck.

Legacy is a thing earned – for the Hurley family it was cemented long ago. For Uconn men’s hoop,  it’s been a steady journey with primarily Jim Calhoun, and then Kevin Ollie and now Hurley. Being an NCAA D1 coach is an all year treacherous battle , the recruiting, the travel, the hiring and firing of staff, and the countless practices.

Last but not least, is the revolving door of players  (two players from last year’s champs left school early for the NBA and the NIL (where players get paid for Name/Image/Likeness). For Hurley , despite his manic style, coaching the game may be the easy part.

As it turned out, the only thing easier was taking family and “the program” over the mega-bucks and a broader national spotlight. He’s simply not that kind of megalomaniac. Good for him and good luck chasing the threepeat which would some day cement his place with his father in the Hall of Fame.

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John Gozzi
John Gozzi, Contributing Writer
John Gozzi is a Contributing Writer for Cape Fear Voices.

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