This weekend, as UConn takes the floor at the Final Four in Houston, we'll see if Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and company can continue their recent stretch of dominance. After a blistering 14-0 start to the season, UConn faltered in the early part of the Big East season, nearly dropping out of the AP Top 25 by the end of January. But the Huskies righted the ship, winning their last five regular season games.
In the first game of the NCAA Tournament, UConn trailed No. 13 seed Iona by 2 at the half. After back-to-back first round exits, was another early trip home for UConn imminent?
No. Coach Dan Hurley and the squad righted the ship at halftime, and UConn has been rolling ever since. They outscored Rick Pitino's Gaels by 26 points in the second half. In the second round, they stretched a narrow one point halftime lead to a 15 point victory over the tough St. Mary's Gaels.
Quick aside - this has to be the first time in NCAA history that any team has defeated two teams with the nickname "Gaels" in back-to-back games, right?
The Hurley Coaching Tree
And while most fans will be focused on the action on the court this weekend, there will be a small subset of New Jersey natives who may be more focused on the sidelines.
UConn head coach Dan Hurley is part of the first family of New Jersey basketball. His father Bob Hurley Sr. is a Hall of Fame coach who spent over 50 years building a powerhouse program at tiny St. Anthony's in Jersey City. Dan's brother Bobby starred at Duke in the early 1990s, serving as point guard for the back-to-back champion Blue Devils.
Bobby Hurley is currently the head coach at Arizona State University. After two seasons leading Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference, including one NCAA Tournament appearance, Hurley landed the ASU job in 2015 and has taken the Sun Devils to three NCAA Tournaments.
But how did the older Hurley brother get his start in coaching? Well, turns out it was a leg up from his little brother Danny.
In 2010, Dan Hurley got his first Division I coaching opportunity at Wagner College on Staten Island. After nearly a decade coaching at the high school level in New Jersey, Hurley decided it was time to try his hand at the next level.
He brought along his brother Bobby, and together they very quickly turned the hapless Wagner Seahawks into a force in the Northeast Conference.
For the older Hurley, it was an important experience. When asked about his approach to coaching in a 2010 interview with Wagner Magazine, Hurley said, "I'm developing an approach right now. It's one thing to play the game at a high level and being around it my whole life. I'm learning a lot from Danny being here the first couple of weeks." The pair went on to discuss a potential "good cop, bad cop" rapport.
Hurleys Part Ways
After a few seasons together at Wagner, both Hurleys parted with the small Staten Island school for other opportunities. Dan went to URI, where he led the Rams to an Atlantic 10 championship and multiple NCAA Tournament trips, while Bobby went to Buffalo.
And while the elder Hurley landed a job at a Power 5 conference school while Dan was toiling away in Kingston, Rhode Island, Danny eventually made his way to Connecticut and stands on the cusp of winning a national title.
Both Hurley teams made the NCAA Tournament this season. Each brother has built his own culture of winning, aggressive defense, and up-tempo play to their respective schools.
Things at ASU have been a bit up and down for Bobby Hurley, and his name always come up in rumors as the coaching carousel kicks into gear at the end of every season.
While it looks like Bobby will stay out west for the time being, maybe we'll have a future where he lands a job with a different Big East school, and we can get Hurley vs. Hurley twice a year.
Might be rough on the family, but would make for incredible television.
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