Dan Hurley turns down offer from Lakers, will stay at UConn to seek 3rd straight NCAA title

FILE - UConn head coach Dan Hurley calls towards his players during the first half of the Elite 8 college basketball game against Illinois in the men's NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Boston. The Los Angeles Lakers’ reported plan to offer a massive contract to UConn coach Dan Hurley is the latest twist in the monthlong race to replace Darvin Ham. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(AP) –Dan Hurley is staying at Connecticut and has decided to turn down an offer to take over the Los Angeles Lakers, ending several days of speculation about his future and meaning he will try to guide the Huskies to a third consecutive NCAA championship.

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

ESPN first reported Hurley’s decision on Monday, plus was first to report last week that he had emerged as a serious candidate for the Lakers job. Hurley met with Lakers officials on Friday, then spent the weekend weighing his options.

And it seems likely that Hurley will soon be richly rewarded for staying at UConn: Shortly before the ESPN report of Hurley’s decision to stay put, Lamont, who was in contact with Hurley throughout the weekend, said the state will “make sure he’s the top-paid college coach” if he remains with the Huskies.

The only immediate comment from UConn was the university posting an image of Hurley with his hands in the air, and another post saying the team’s 2 p.m. practice was underway. Assistant coach Luke Murray, who has worked with Hurley at Wagner, Seton Hall and UConn, also posted a video of Hurley lifting his arms in the air in celebration of the national title — without a caption, probably because the post’s meaning was clear enough.

“Now let’s get ready for a #3peat, because Connecticut knows champions are built here!” Lamont wrote.

Hurley had the option of taking over one of the most famed franchises in pro sports, not to mention perhaps the chance to coach NBA all-time scoring leader LeBron James. 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.

“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.”

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. He may get the chance again one day — but for now, at least, the NBA can wait.

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.

And he’s been rewarded for that success; last June, he signed a $32.1 million, six-year deal. Another deal is almost surely on the way now, one that will come shortly after UConn signed women’s coach Geno 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. And now their search continues.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today