UConn’s Head Coach Was Building Dynasties in NJ Before the NCAA

Last night, the UConn Huskies took down the Purdue Boilermakers with ease in a 75-60 victory to earn the program its second consecutive national title. The win put a cap on UConn’s dominant season finish with a record of 37-3, winning on average by 18 points, which ranks first in the NCAA.

The Huskies were led by head coach Dan Hurley, who joined the program in 2018 and it built it into a powerhouse in just five years. Hurley’s ties to the Garden State run deep, as it was where he got his start in both his playing and coaching career. If you watched last night’s broadcast, you may have caught him shouting out Jersey City, his hometown, for helping lead him down this path.

Hurley’s High School/College Career in the Garden State

Before he was a nationally renowned coach, Hurley was a nationally recognized basketball player, playing for St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, where his father was the long-time head coach. As a senior, he led the team to a 31-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in the country.

Unlike his brother, Bobby, who chose to go play for Duke, where he would lead them to two national titles, Dan Hurley chose to remain local and played five years of college basketball for Seton Hall.

The Journey from High School to Division I Basketball

After his college career concluded, Hurley couldn’t escape his passion for the game and worked as an assistant coach for his alma mater, St. Anthony High School, before landing at Rutgers under the same role. By 2001, Hurley landed his first head coaching job at Saint Benedict’s Prep in Newark, where he built the program up to one of the best in the country. During his time at Saint Benedict’s, Hurley coached the team to a 223-21, coaching four All-Americans, including future NBA champion J.R. Smith in the process.

Following his success at Saint Benedict’s, he earned the chance to coach at the collegiate level, where he immediately made his impact on the program. The season before Hurley took over, Wagner College had earned 5 wins, which turned into 13 in his first season. The next season, he nearly doubled the total, leading the school to a 25-6 record.

After two dominant seasons at Wagner, Hurley would take the head coaching job at a more prestigious school with the University of Rhode Island (URI). Hurley would spend six seasons at URI, leading the school to a 113-82 record in that span. Most impressively, though, is that he led the school to the NCAA Tournament twice in his last two seasons.

Hurley’s Process of Turning UConn Into a Powerhouse

In 2018, Hurley joined the University of Connecticut, carrying the burden of coaching one of the country’s most storied college basketball programs. Hurley struggled in his first two seasons, putting up a 35-29 record without making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, with the COVID-19 pandemic only making it worse. 

The next two seasons, the Huskies made back-to-back appearances in March Madness, the school’s first since 2016, however, they were eliminated in the first round both times. Then, in 2023, Hurley led UConn to a dominant run in the tournament, where they won the national championship with ease. This year, Hurley has done it yet again, winning the tournament with ease, in addition to being named the Men’s College Basketball Coach of the Year, cementing his name in the college basketball history books.