STORRS - In 1986, a somewhat fiery 44-year-old college basketball coach from a nearby New England program took on a building job with the UConn men’s basketball program.
Now, a somewhat fiery 45-year-old college basketball coach from a nearby New England program takes on a rebuilding job with the UConn men’s basketball program.
Danny Hurley may not be Jim Calhoun. He may not catch lightning in a bottle as Calhoun did in eventual his Hall of Fame career. But there seems to be that chance.
“He seems like a good guy. Why would you want to compare him to me?” Calhoun joked Thursday, the day the Rhode Island head coach agreed to a six-year contract to become UConn’s next head coach.
Calhoun, who says he has known Hurley since Calhoun’s son, Jeff, and Hurley were roommates at the old Five-Star Basketball Camp in the early 1990s, arrived at UConn after 14 years at Northeastern. Hurley has spent six years at URI, a tenure that was preceded by two years as the coach at Wagner, and nine years at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey.
“Danny’s a really good coach who has a chance to be a great coach,” Calhoun said. “And he’s a really good person.”
Herbst and Benedict, UConn’s athletic director, spoke with Hurley on Monday and offered him the job soon after.
Hurley had also received an offer from Pittsburgh to be its coach for a similar salary this week before choosing UConn.
In addition, Rhode Island Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn offered Hurley this week an increase in his salary, apparently nearly doubling it to $2 million.
“I wish him well. I’ve enjoyed our partnership and our friendship over the last six years,” Bjorn said Thursday.
Hurley played college basketball at Seton Hall, facing the Huskies on numerous occasions while playing his final three seasons for George Blaney. Blaney would later become Calhoun’s assistant at UConn.
Hurley took his Wagner team to face Calhoun’s Huskies in 2011. He’s also had longtime UConn assistant Tom Moore on his staff at Rhode Island.
In many ways, Hurley has prepped for the job he now has.
“He’s watched us, played against us, coached against us,” Calhoun said. “He has a great feel for who we are, what we are.”
Hurley was 113-82 at Rhode Island, making the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two years.
Hurley replaces Kevin Ollie as the Huskies’ head coach. Ollie guided the Huskies to the 2014 national championship, the school’s fourth, but was at the helm for two straight losing seasons before his dismissal March 10.
Ollie was once Calhoun’s point guard and later his hand-picked successor.
But Calhoun admits he’s a fan of Hurley now, too.
“For 32 years, 40 percent of my life, I’ve waved a UConn banner. That’s not going to change. I’m going to root like crazy for them,” Calhoun said.