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Dan Hurley's place in the Los Angeles Lakers' coaching search may be surprising, but it feels somewhat familiar. It was 20 years ago next month that Mike Krzyzewski, then college basketball's most decorated coach, considered a lengthy courtship from the purple and gold. In the end, he turned down them down, but he's maintained a relationship with the franchise and its stars in the decades since. Now, he is serving as a consultant on another Lakers hire, and considering Hurley is the brother of his former point guard at Duke, Bobby Hurley, it's safe to say Krzyzewski has a handle on what kind of coach the Lakers are considering.

So... what kind of coach are the Lakers considering? Who is Dan Hurley, the two-time defending national champion at UConn? What kind of team does he run? What would his presence mean for the roster moving forward? We'll attempt to answer those questions and more below.

How did Hurley get here?

The last time the Lakers pursued a star college coach, Hurley was relatively early in his tenure at St. Benedict's Prep, a New Jersey high school power. That level is where the Hurley family has made its name. His father, Bob Hurley Sr., is the legendary head coach of St. Anthony High School in New Jersey, and Dan's coaching career began there as an assistant immediately after his playing career at Seton Hall ended. A brief stint as a Rutgers assistant got him the St. Benedict's job, where he stayed and thrived until 2010.

From there, Hurley made the leap to Wagner, which began a steady trend of slow but deliberate program turnarounds at the college level. His first Wagner team went 13-17. His second went 25-6. That got him the Rhode Island job, where he went below .500 for two years, but eventually got the Rams into back-to-back NCAA tournaments. They won a game in both the 2017 and 2018 big dances, and that got him the Huskies job. For the third consecutive job, Hurley went below .500 in his debut campaign (16-17). He hasn't gone below .500 since. The Huskies went 19-12 in 2020, returned to the NCAA tournament in 2021 and, finally, broke through as national champions in both 2023 and 2024. 

Notably, the rosters on his two champions were significantly different. This wasn't Billy Donovan winning back-to-back titles with the same starting five. Only two of his five 2023 starters, Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban, were back for 2024. He won the second title with a transfer (Cam Spencer), a freshman (Stephon Castle) and a reserve (Donovan Clingan) stepping into his lineup. At every stop, it's taken him a year to implement his system, but once he's done so, it has been able to survive player turnover to remain steadily successful. 

How did Hurley's UConn teams play?

Manhattan coach John Gallagher summed up the experience of facing UConn nicely as part of a profile on Hurley written by Michael Cohen of Fox Sports. "Any time you played Danny's teams in the past, you knew you had to win a street fight," Gallagher said. "Now in the last, I'd say, two to three years, you gotta go into the library and win the debate, too."

Hurley's teams seamlessly blend strength and finesse. They ranked in the top five in the nation in rebounding rate in both championship years while also ranking in the top 11 in 3-point attempts. The single most important stat to UConn's success? They ranked No. 2 in the nation in assists during their first championship run and No. 1 during their second despite ranking 165th in pace in 2023 and 315th in 2024. The Huskies didn't inflate their assist numbers in transition. This was a genuine, ball-movement machine in the half-court over the past two seasons, frequently hunting high-value shots at the rim and behind the arc more successfully than any other college team. 

KenPom's opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency metric put them at a preposterous 127.5 points per 100 possessions last season. That would make them the third-most efficient offense of the KenPom era, trailing only the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers and the 2018 Villanova Wildcats.

Though the Lakers have had periods of fleeting offensive success in recent years, this type of offense has largely eluded them. The Lakers have never even shot a league-average number of 3-pointers during the LeBron James-Anthony Davis era. They ranked 25th in passes per game this season, which is roughly where they've spent the majority of the James era aside from a 2020-21 season in which Marc Gasol forcefully dragged ball-movement out of an otherwise stagnant roster (to resounding success!) Hurley's system would be a sea change for a Laker offense that has so often defaulted to freelancing, isolation and the James-Davis pick-and-roll.

Despite their systematic limitations, the Lakers were trending up offensively when their season ended. They finished the year ranked No. 15 in offense, but No. 3 from Feb. 1 on. Of course, the trouble was that their defense ranked No. 21 in that span. This was much more of a roster issue than a schematic one. Aside from Davis, all of the best Laker players were offense-centric. Key defenders Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent were hurt all year. Defensively, Darvin Ham was forced to try to make chicken salad out of, well, you know.

Hurley would presumably have more defensive talent at his disposal than Ham did almost by default. Schematically, his system has leaned toward drop-coverage and rim-protection. That has been what his personnel has been best-suited towards, with impending lottery pick Donovan Clingan being the most notable example of a high-end rim-protector to come through Hurley's program. Notably, though, Hurley has shown a willingness to get creative with schemes on the fly in bigger moments. He notably played a zone defense in the second half of a 2023 Elite Eight win over Gonzaga, for example, and that helped the Huskies hold the Bulldogs to 22 points in that 20-minute period.

Davis is something of a schematic skeleton key defensively. If Hurley wants to run a defense based on the drop-coverage that turned Clingan into a star last season? Davis can do that. If he wants to get more creative and have Davis defend at the level of the screen or even switch? He can do that too, and that will matter when he wants to mix things up in the middle of games as he so frequently did at UConn. But ultimately, his success defensively is going to come down to how much the Lakers are able to upgrade at the point of attack. Ham frequently used players like Taurean Prince and Austin Reaves against star opposing ball-handlers. No coach can overcome that. Hurley may have had Clingan last season, but he also had Stephon Castle to hound top opponents. Rob Pelinka will have to get him more to work with on that end of the floor.

More than anything else, Hurley's best trait as a coach is that he is adaptable. He developed his historic offense over time, acknowledged and embraced modern basketball trends, and adjusted it as needed. This is what it takes to win in the modern NBA. There might have been a time in which it was possible to win with a dedicated system. Today, games and series are won and lost on matchups and adjustments. Hurley has proven willing to tinker and experiment without sacrificing his team's core, physical identity. Such coaches are are very rare, and if that translates, Hurley will be a great NBA head coach.

If there is a question mark here, it relates to Hurley's personality. He is known for running intense and demanding practices. His temper with officials and willingness to confront his players is well-known. This old-school approach tends to work better at the college level than in the pros, where veterans are used to having more autonomy and practice schedules are lighter by necessity of all of the extra games they need to play. Hurley admitted himself on the Dan Patrick Show that his interest in the NBA was in part reliant on "if I could grow up a little bit, mature a bit with emotions."

Old-school coaching isn't entirely out of fashion. Tom Thibodeau is notoriously demanding when it comes to practice habits. Some players are ill-suited for that style, but his current roster has embraced it. Hurley wouldn't need to completely change his coaching style, but he'd need to be open-minded about the differences between younger college players and professional athletes. Reaching seasoned millionaires often requires a very different approach. 

Why Hurley over, say, JJ Redick?

The Lakers clearly believe Redick is going to be a successful NBA head coach some day. They aren't the only team that thinks so. Both the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets have interviewed him for top jobs in the past two offseasons. Shams Charania and Jovan Buha of The Athletic even reported that the Lakers consider him a "Pat Riley-like coaching prospect." If Hurley does not ultimately take this job, there is still a strong chance that Redick does.

But there are clear reasons why the front office would prefer Hurley. The obvious one is experience. Hurley hasn't coached in the NBA, but Redick hasn't coached anywhere except the youth level. Redick might be a great coach. Hurley already is, even if it hasn't happened in the pros yet. There would be an adjustment period for both, but it would likely be longer for Redick. The Lakers may be thinking long-term with this hire, but that doesn't mean they are willing to punt the end of the James era entirely. Having an experienced coach this year maximizes whatever championship equity the Lakers have.

It's also, frankly, hard to deny the front office incentives at play here. The Rob Pelinka-led front office spearheaded the hires of both Frank Vogel and Darvin Ham. Both of them have been fired. General managers rarely get to hire a third head coach. Redick may have plenty of coaching upside, but he's also an enormous risk. If Pelinka hired Redick and he proceeded to fail, it would be very hard for him to convince management that he deserves to hire a fourth head coach. That is especially true since the coach he failed to secure in 2019, Ty Lue, has gone on to become one of the most respected in all of basketball with the Clippers. Coaching hires have been a persistent issue for the Lakers. Hurley, if nothing else, is a relatively easy choice to explain. He's the two-time reigning college champion. Nobody is going out on a limb here.

Redick will eventually be an NBA head coach if he wants to be. It might even be with the Lakers. But any front office that hires him needs to be prepared for the possibility that he struggles, at least initially, considering his lack of experience. Given the age of the roster and the coaching swings this front office has already missed, it's not hard to see why the Lakers would prefer the proven commodity.

What would a Hurley hire mean for the Laker roster?

Let's start with the obvious: LeBron James is, functionally, an impending free agent. He has fortunately blessed this hire. In April, Redick, of all people, shared a video of him discussing UConn's offense with Hurley. James responded with high praise. "He's so DAMN GOOD!!! Along with his staff. Super creative with their O! Love it," James wrote. The widespread expectation is that James will return this offseason either through an extension or a new deal entirely. He is eligible for a three-year deal in total.

His future, however, is notably uncertain. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that James was clear about that with the Lakers, saying that he told them something to the effect of "You have to hire somebody who is for beyond just me. I might be here for another year. I might be here for two years. You've got to make a decision that's built around Anthony Davis." Rich Paul, the agent for both James and Davis, echoed that sentiment in a recent interview with Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes. By all accounts, the Lakers are thinking long-term here.

But that begs the question: how aggressive are they willing to be in reshaping this roster? The Lakers have three first-round picks to trade this offseason: the No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft along with future selections in 2029 and 2031. They can also offer swaps in 2026, 2028 and 2030, and if they want to get really aggressive, they can even trade the currently-protected portion of the 2027 pick they owe the Jazz (1-4), as that pick does not roll over into future years. Most of the reporting surrounding this Lakers offseason has suggested that they plan to shop those picks for upgrades, either in the form of a third star to pair with James and Davis or role players to put around them.

Such a move would probably be necessary to lift a Lakers team that just earned a No. 7 seed in the Western Conference into true, immediate championship contention. But would the Lakers really want to sacrifice all of their future roster optionality right as they hire a college coach? What happens if the players they acquire don't wind up fitting his vision for the team? Heck, what if they do fit, and the Lakers contend for a year or two with James still playing like himself, but eventually, he and Davis age out of stardom? Hurley can't build a program without access to top talent.

If they do trade for a star, it would probably have to be someone on the younger side that could grow with Hurley in the role. Reported targets Darius Garland (24 years old), Trae Young (25) and Donovan Mitchell (27) all fit that bill, but none of the three are impact defenders. Were the Lakers to acquire any of them, they'd have to be confident in their ability to develop such players on the fringes. Still, pairing Davis with any of those guards should keep the Lakers competitive even after James eventually retires or moves on, provided good health.

Is there a middle ground in which the Lakers trade some of their youth and draft capital for upgrades without selling the farm? Potentially. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski cited a young core of Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and Max Christie as players management believe could thrive under Hurley's guidance. That would leave Gabe Vincent ($11 million) and Jarred Vanderbilt ($10.7 million) as obvious trade candidates, along with 2023 first-round pick Jalen Hood-Schifino ($3.9 million) and, if he picks up his player option, D'Angelo Rusell ($18.7 million). Uniting the first two could at least match salary on a mid-tier, impact starter. Throw in the last two and now you're at least in money-matching range for a star, though such a player would obviously command significant draft capital.

Last offseason, the Lakers largely ran back the roster that went to the Western Conference finals. They aren't doing that again this time around. The only question now is how much of their future they're willing to sell for the sake of the present. If the Lakers view Hurley as a long-term program-builder, it's probably going to be less of it than we otherwise thought. If nothing else, it doesn't make sense to trade away all of their future picks before Hurley has even coached a single game. The last thing the Lakers are going to want to do is fully sacrifice their ability to build through the draft before they know whether or not they'll ever need to. There will be changes this summer. They just might not be as drastic as fans may have hoped.

How much is this going to cost the Lakers?

In short, it's not going to be cheap. Right now, Hurley is coaching UConn on a six-year, $32.1 million deal. Throw that figure out the window. It is pocket change in modern NBA coaching terms. According to USA Today, Bill Self is the highest-paid college coach right now at $9.6 million per year. That is probably the bar UConn needs to reach for Hurley to even consider staying put, because NBA numbers are much higher right now.

Monty Williams reset the NBA's coach market last offseason with a six-year, $78 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. That's an average annual value of $12.5 million. Gregg Popovich exceeded that figure on a five-year, $80 million pact with the Spurs. Erik Spoelstra blew both numbers out of the water with a massive eight-year, $120 million extension with the Miami Heat this season. Steve Kerr is the average annual value champ for now at $17.5 million per year, but he extended for only two years in Golden State. Ty Lue ($14 million per year) recently extended in that ballpark.

All of this means that a top NBA coach can now easily command eight figures annually. In the past, the Lakers have not only hesitated to pay top-dollar for coaches, but have also preferred shorter-term deals. They lost Lue in 2019 in part because they only offered him a three-year deal. They eventually got Vogel on such a contract, and extended him for only one year even after he won the 2020 championship. Ham got a four-year deal when the Lakers hired him in 2022. Hurley, at a minimum, would probably command five years. Six is more likely, as Williams proved it was possible to get such a deal from a new team if it is desperate enough.

Staffing won't be cheap either, though Dan Woike of the LA Times has reported that the Lakers are prepared to pay what it takes for a top staff. All three UConn assistants have become hot commodities in their own right. Associate head coach Kimani Young would likely be a candidate to replace Hurley if he left. Assistants Tom Moore and Luke Murray (son of actor Bill Murray) would be coveted by other college programs as well as the Lakers. Los Angeles would likely prefer to have some degree of NBA experience on its bench. That would likely come from the coaching realm, with Woike naming James Borrego (a candidate for the head coaching job) and Scott Brooks as possibilities. A player whose name has made the rounds a bit? Rajon Rondo, whose basketball IQ is legendary. He was revered by Laker teammates during his stint in Los Angeles as a player and would seemingly have a ton of upside as a coach.

The Lakers have never been known for their willingness to spend on non-player staff. Bringing in Hurley would be expensive in itself, but so would equipping him with all of the resources he would need to succeed. If Hurley is indeed the hire, the Lakers will need to spend on assistants, on the video room, on analytics, and on all sorts of support staff that have helped him thrive at UConn. If Hurley is going to build a program in the NBA as he has in college, it is going to be from the ground up. That is expensive, but if he is anywhere near as successful as he's been at UConn, it would be well worth it.