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On the heels of leading UConn to back-to-back NCAA national championships, Dan Hurley has emerged as the Los Angeles Lakers' priority target in their coaching search, according to ESPN. CBS Sports' Bill Reiter has confirmed the Lakers' interest and pursuit of Hurley. Los Angeles is preparing a "massive, long-term contract offer" to Hurley, per ESPN, and has already had preliminary contact about the position. 

Hurley told his UConn team on Thursday that he is in talks with the Lakers, CBS Sports' Matt Norlander confirmed. Hurley's camp and the Lakers are set to meet on Friday in California, ESPN adds.

The Lakers fired Darvin Ham in May after just two seasons and JJ Redick -- co-host of a podcast with Lakers star LeBron James, a broadcaster with ESPN and a long-time player first at Duke and then in the NBA for nearly two decades -- was believed to be the frontrunner for the position. However, Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Hurley has been the target throughout the process. From ESPN:

Hurley has been at the forefront of the Lakers' search from the beginning of the process, even while the organization has done its due diligence interviewing several other candidates, sources said.

Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and governor Jeanie Buss are eager to formally discuss with Hurley their vision of marrying his dominant program -- built upon both his tactical acumen and elite player development -- with the storied Lakers brand, sources said.

Hurley, earlier this offseason, turned down overtures from the University of Kentucky, one of the best jobs in college basketball because of its history and resources, after the school and John Calipari went in separate directions. He later said he had no desire to coach college basketball anywhere else before adding that trying his hand at the NBA later in his career interests him. In an interview last year, he said that he still had some "developing to do on the sideline" before thinking of making the jump to the NBA, a reference to his sideline antics and emotive coaching tactics.

"There's no one coaching like me in the NBA,"he said then. "They're not ready ... and certainly, I'm not ready. [But] that is something I aspire to down the road."

After leading UConn to a national championship in 2023, Hurley signed a six-year deal worth $32.1 million that vaulted him into the top 10 highest-paid college coaches. Then Hurley, 51, led the Huskies to another championship this spring, becoming the first to go back-to-back since Billy Donovan did it with Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hurley and UConn have been in talks -- but not yet agreed to -- a deserved new deal that would result in a pay bump for him and his coaching staff.

Hurley has remade his roster once again this offseason to be a legitimate contender to three-peat next year with Alex Karaban, Hassan Diarra and Jaylin Stewart, among others, set to return in 2024-25. The Huskies rank No. 5 in Gary Parrish's most recent Top 25 and 1 for next season and own the second-best betting odds to win again next season, according to odds from Bovada

College athletics has been transformed in the last few years with the emergence of the transfer portal and the implementation of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rights for athletes, which has made coaching at college more challenging than ever before. Giants of the game like Nick Saban, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jay Wright have all retired in recent years, and Hurley has not been shy about the hardships of thriving in this new era, with frequent tweets about the challenges of dipping into -- and generally dealing with -- the portal and all that comes with it.

If he leaves UConn, he'd be the second 2024 national championship-winning coach to leap to the pros and flock to L.A., joining Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, who left his alma mater to become coach of the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers.