If Danny Hurley does become the next UConn basketball coach - and there are strong indications that the Huskies are zeroing in on the current Rhode Island coach - he is going to be heading to Storrs on a high note.
Hurley’s Rams beat Oklahoma 83-78 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Pittsburgh, giving that program NCAA tourney victories in consecutive years for the first time ever.
Rhode Island will take on second-seeded Duke, where Danny’s older brother Bobby was a star point guard, in Saturday’s second round.
UConn fired Kevin Ollie after six seasons on Saturday.
Hurley, who is also drawing interest from the University of Pittsburgh, deflected questions about his candidacy when asked Wednesday.
“It’s something, social media age, for me to sit up here and say I have no awareness would be, you know, it wouldn’t be truthful,” Hurley said. “But I haven’t thought one second about, you know, any other team or program or, you know, what city I’m playing in, relative to who has a coaching vacancy.”
The other candidate UConn has, according to several sources, made overtures toward is South Carolina coach Frank Martin.
But one of the other candidates UConn had shown interest in, ESPN analyst Tom Crean, is off the board.
Crean, a former Indiana and Marquette coach, has agreed to return to the sidelines but not with the Huskies. Georgia hired Crean as its next head coach Thursday night.
Thad Matta, the former Ohio State coach who actually turned down Georgia before the Bulldogs turned to Crean, apparently doesn’t feel he’s ready to return physically. The 50-year-old Matta left the Buckeyes, in part, due to health concerns.
Among the others who remain outside possibilities for the Huskies to hire are Vermont’s John Becker and St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt.
Longtime UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, now 75, does not appear to be viable choice, even as a stop gap measure, at this point.
Raphael Chillious, the Huskies’ associate head coach until recently, is serving as UConn’s interim head coach.
While it searches for a new head coach, UConn is still in the midst of parting ways with Ollie.
Ollie’s contract runs through 2021 and there is more than $10 million owed the coach, but the school announced last weekend that it is firing Ollie with cause.
The school apparently believes that the ongoing NCAA inquiry into the program has already produced enough evidence for it to warrant parting with Ollie. The exact nature of the investigation is unclear but it involves, at least in part, the program’s recruiting practices.
There may also be an added component to the disciplinary reasons UConn is dismissing Ollie involving Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier.
The duo was held back from warming up for the Huskies’ game against SMU last week until their eligibility was reviewed. Both players apparently were involved in workouts that may not have been permissible under NCAA rules.
Ollie is appealing the nature of his dismissal with the help of the American Associate of University Professors. He is entitled to a hearing with UConn Athletic Director David Benedict by March 25, and if an agreement can’t be reached he could then appeal to UConn President Susan Herbst.