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UConn’s Hurley adding to storied family legacy

Dan Hurley Dan Hurley - The Canadian Press

HOUSTON (AP) — Dan Hurley has forged his own identity.

He’s still Bob Hurley’s son. He’s still Bobby Hurley’s brother.

But win or lose Monday night’s national championship game against San Diego State, Dan Hurley has brought UConn back to national prominence and added to his family’s lofty legacy.

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“Now is his time and he’s shown what he’s capable of doing,” Bobby Hurley said Sunday. “It’s a beautiful thing because the success my dad had, the success I had as a player in my career and all the notoriety, now this is Dan’s moment.”

The Hurley family is basketball royalty, two generations of excellence spanning high school, college and NBA basketball.

Bob is the trunk of the basketball tree, a fiery high school coach who led St. Anthony’s to 28 New Jersey state titles and a place in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Bobby was one of the greatest point guards in college basketball history, a two-time All-American and national champion at Duke, still the NCAA’s all-time assists leader.

Dan nearly walked away from the sport.

While his big brother starred at Duke, Dan had to endure chants of “You’re not Bobby!” while playing at Seton Hall. Overwhelmed by the pressure, Hurley took a leave of absence from the team during his junior season.

“When you’re a young guy and playing in college, you’ve got crowds chanting things at him about me, it’s just ridiculous,” said Bobby Hurley, coming off his third NCAA Tournament appearance as Arizona State’s coach. “To have to go through that at that age was really hard on him.”

Not long after that, Bobby was blindsided while driving home after playing a game for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. He nearly died in the crash and somehow returned to the NBA, but had to cut his career short after six seasons.

His brother on the mend, Dan returned to Seton Hall and, after graduating in 1996, waded into the family business as an assistant to his father at St. Anthony’s. He then bounced between high school and college: four years as an assistant at Rutgers, nine at St. Benedict’s Prep, two at Wagner College.

Hurley began to make a name for himself in six seasons at Rhode Island, leading the Rams to the NCAA Tournament his final two years.

That led to his biggest task yet: trying to return UConn to national prominence.

The Huskies won their fourth national title in 2014, but spiraled downward in the wake of recruiting violations and coach Kevin Ollie’s ugly departure. When Hurley took over in 2018, UConn was 170th on the KenPom analytics rankings and no longer in the conversation of college basketball’s best programs.

Hurley began his program building in Storrs, getting advice from his father, former UConn coach Jim Calhoun — anyone he could get it from.

The Huskies gradually increased their win total each season — outside of the pandemic-truncated 2020-21 season — and, after two first-round NCAA Tournament flameouts, raced through this year’s bracket with five double-digit wins.

“For me, when you grow up in the way I grew up, you want to go and challenge yourself all the time,” Hurley said.

Growing up a Hurley was not easy.

Bob Hurley was demanding of his players at St. Anthony’s and even more so with his two sons. They were taught losing was not an option, just good enough a complete failure.

As players and coaches, the Hurley brothers were just as combustible as their dad, stretching to their limits to win at all costs.

“My dad started the whole thing,” Bobby Hurley said. “If anyone has a problem with our competitive drive, you should probably start right there. He hated to lose. He rarely lost and when he did, everyone was hiding in the house because that’s just how things were.”

The intense upbringing helped the Hurley brothers excel in their careers, but also created a strong family bond as they became adults and their father grew older.

Dan Hurley has become emotional numerous times during this march through March, including UConn’s game against Arkansas last weekend when he choked up and had to compose himself after being asked about his dad.

“Me and my wife have shared tears, but there’s a lot of tears being shed,” Bob Hurley said. “I don’t know if it’s part of the gig he’s got going now, but he’s emotionally invested in these kids.”

The emotional Hurley has pushed all the right buttons, turning UConn into what his father has said is a college version of St. Anthony’s. The Huskies play hard, are disciplined and strive for perfection.

With Bob and Bobby in the stands, UConn overwhelmed Arkansas, Gonzaga and Miami the past two weekends to reach the Final Four.

“I want to be the college version of my dad,” Dan Hurley said. “I want to coach with integrity, be a man of my word and have the holistic type of approach that my dad had, be a coach’s coach like my dad, not a phony or a fraud or a liar or a cheater.”

One more win Monday night will set off a massive Hurley celebration in Houston, adding another chapter to the family legacy.