Dan Hurley has NCAA Tournament wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in its history. The Rams also won a regular season league title this year.into a top-level team in the Atlantic 10. The 45-year-old just coached the school to
It was the first time they did that since 1981.
Point is, when you get results that have never been done, or haven't been done in decades, your name is going to be attached to bigger jobs. For Hurley, a New Jersey native built to thrive in the northeast basketball scene, the timing is fortuitous.with haste and are hoping to stick them with cause as means to save money. Both schools are courting Hurley for their openings.
Rhode Island, oh by the way, would like to keep its coach around. So as all of this is going on, Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn is going to need to rally a lot of money and make a hell of a pitch to keep Hurley on campus.
As of Tuesday morning, no decision has been made. And a lot of people are curious as to what Hurley is going to do; his choice should be one of the two or three biggest on the coaching carousel this year.
Let's look at the options on the table.
Obviously the proudest program of the three. UConn has four national titles since 1999 and even despite an aggressive dip in stature in the past four years due to on-court performance -- and the move from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference -- it's still considered a top-40 job in college basketball at this point.
But is it? Did Jim Calhoun build Connecticut into something sustainable long-term? Whether or not UConn can land Hurley will say plenty about where the program stands now. Once upon a time UConn was a job you would never turn down. The fact it is up for grabs with a program that's not even in the top eight jobs in the ACC is telling.
Hurley would be the best possible hire for UConn at this point in terms of this combination: He's a name, a respected X-and-O tactician, a media-savvy coach and someone who is going to be able to sell tickets. He checks almost all the boxes. The fan base would be invigorated with the hire.
The American is not as good or deep as the ACC. For Hurley, he'll weigh how much conference affiliation matters and whether he's OK with being paid less to than at Pitt. UConn is a state school, and at the moment, the state of Connecticut is going through an extended budget crisis. UConn will not be able to pay Hurley as much as Pitt.
Will money win out over opportunity?
The fan base also hates the league and wishes it were back in the Big East or teamed up with football in the ACC. As things stand, UConn is a top-three job in the American. There is a lot to be said for that. Pittsburgh is nowhere close to that in the ACC.
There is also the issue of UConn's NBA alumni. How likely are they to embrace their alma mater so soon after Ollie was canned? Having NBA players around your program can do wonders for recruiting. Ollie's firing could potentially stall a normally reliable benefit to coaching the Huskies. With former NBA star Memphis, this would put even more recruiting pressure on Hurley. Hardaway is highly likely to annually stack four- and five-star talent that comes out of the greater Memphis area.
UConn should be considered the favorite, but it's not a no-brainer.
Is the ceiling at Pitt lower than the ceiling at UConn? Fair to say that is the perception.
Pittsburgh's pitch is compelling, though: It's in the better league, in a better city and it can pay more than UConn while not bringing as much pressure from the fan base. Connecticut fans expect NCAA Tournament wins every year and a Final Four-level team every two or three years. At Pitt, if you can make it into the NCAAs every other season, you're going to be OK for almost a decade. (Jamie Dixon made the Big Dance almost every year he was there, but given the Stallings disaster, perhaps Panthers fans now realize how good they once had it and are less greedy.)
Hurley would no doubt have a longer leash at Pitt. Getting to the NCAA Tournament might prove to be easier out of the ACC than the American because of the opportunities to play top-50 opponents.
Money is obviously huge here. Pitt has the resources to probably throw around $3 million annually at Hurley. What will UConn be able to produce to compete with that? If Pitt is putting a million more per year on the table, how do you turn that down? It's much more money with much less pressure -- and hey, maybe you get it going and wind up coaching in the ACC as Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim opt to retire in the coming years. That's intriguing.
At Pitt, you also don't have someone like Jim Calhoun to live up to.
Is Pitt a better job -- not a program, just the job -- than UConn currently? Hurley's choice might be what decides that. Pitt is a bottom-third gig in the ACC, undeniably, and it must be noted that the administration has also been a mess. The school has had a revolving door of athletic directors in the past decade. Current AD Heather Lyke did not hire Stallings, so her move to fire him was clearly one with intention of bringing in a Hurley-level candidate.
Hurley staying at URI would be surprising, but he is an openly emotional person who has developed tight connections with a lot of returning players on that roster. Staying with the Rams would mean he agrees to stay put in the worst of the three leagues and would keep on with the lowest direct deposit going into his bank account. Money isn't everything, but in a volatile business where men can be fired two or three years into a job, getting paid is paramount. URI just does not have the financial capability to compete with UConn and Pitt.
What it can provide is the best guarantee of continued success. URI has a lot coming back. Plus, Hurley is bringing in maybe the best recruiting class in school history. He's built something big in the smallest state in America. His job security may never be better than right now.
"This was a nowhere program, a dead program in just about every way possible, from fan base to facilities to commitment to roster," Hurley said after the Duke loss on Saturday. "What they've done for the place, those seniors … the way the whole thing exploded this year, once we get away from the loss, it's gonna be all about that."
The Rams are built to be a top-three team in the A-10 again next year. That would probably mean getting to the NCAA tourney for a third straight season. But realistically, it would take an amazing pitch from URI to keep him.
Hurley's career arc is interesting. He's the only active coach in Division I who was hired as a head coach directly out of coaching a high school program. (Wagner hired him in 2010.) So even though he's been hired by two D-I schools, Pitt and UConn present something very different. He's never gone through this process before. The three choices in front of him are very different. We should know this week which school wins out.