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Dan Hurley turns down offer from Lakers, will stay at UConn

The Los Angeles Lakers offered Dan Hurley what would have seemed like a basketball coach’s dream: a chance to coach one of the most popular franchises in the world, possibly an opportunity to work with LeBron James and a salary that would have doubled his current salary.

Hurley succeeded.

He’s staying in Connecticut, he said Monday, turning down the Lakers and ending several days of speculation about his future. The lure of trying to win a third straight NCAA championship with the Huskies was obviously just too strong.

“Our MVP coach is staying in CT,” Gov. Ned Lamont posted on social media.

ESPN was first to report Hurley’s decision and was the first to report last week that he was a serious candidate for the Lakers job. Hurley met with Lakers officials — among them owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka — in Los Angeles on Friday, then spent the weekend weighing his options.

One of the best coaches in college basketball is staying put even though he had the chance to coach one of the NBA’s premier franchises. Correspondent Gethin Coolbaugh has the story.

The news broke on Monday. The Huskies practiced Monday afternoon, and before that session in Storrs, Conn., Hurley gave the world what the players — and probably every basketball fan in the state — wanted to hear. The NBA can wait.

“I am humbled by this whole experience,” Hurley said in a statement distributed by UConn. “Ultimately, I am extremely proud of the championship culture we have built at Connecticut. We met as a team before today’s practice and our focus is on improving this summer and bonding as a team as we continue to aim for championships.

It seems likely that Hurley will soon be richly rewarded for his time at UConn. Lamont, who was in contact with Hurley throughout the weekend, told reporters Monday that the state would “make sure he’s the highest-paid college coach.” Hurley got a six-year, $32.1 million contract a year ago after the Huskies won the 2023 NCAA title; another new agreement now seems certain.

“We are thrilled that Dan Hurley has made the decision to remain at UConn and continue to build on our championship tradition,” said UConn athletic director David Benedict. “He helped return our men’s basketball program to the pinnacle of the sport, including back-to-back NCAA championships, and we are grateful for his loyalty to UConn.

“We look forward to Dan’s continued leadership on and off the field at UConn. He will continue to bring great pride to Husky fans everywhere as we work toward a trio.

UConn’s reaction was as expected: People were thrilled. Assistant coach Luke Murray, who worked with Hurley at Wagner, Seton Hall and UConn, posted a video of Hurley raising his arms in the air to celebrate the national title. There was no legend; the meaning of the message was quite clear.

“Now let’s get ready for a #3peat, because Connecticut knows champions are built here!” Lamont wrote.

Hurley had the opportunity to take over one of the most storied franchises in professional sports, not to mention perhaps the opportunity to coach James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. But ultimately, his stay in the coach’s version of the transfer portal was brief — and he’ll stay at UConn, where he went 68-11 over the past two winning seasons.

On the way to those two titles, the fiery Hurley and the tough Huskies left no doubt: 12-0 in NCAA Tournament play, winning by a staggering average of 21.7 points per game. UConn will try to become the second program to win three straight men’s national titles; UCLA, the only men’s program to do better than consecutive games, won seven straight from 1967 to 1973.

Hurley will pursue something rare by turning down the opportunity for something equally rare: leaving the reigning NCAA champions for the NBA.

The last time a coach made such a move was after the 1987-88 season, when Kansas won the NCAA title and Larry Brown decided to leave for the NBA. He took over the San Antonio Spurs and Roy Williams became coach of the Jayhawks.

The Spurs gave Brown $3.5 million over five years, which was a huge sum at the time, but nothing compared to what Hurley would have commanded from the Lakers — probably more than $10 million per season, or about double what he currently makes at UConn. And Brown became the only coach to win both an NCAA title and an NBA championship; he obtained this title with Detroit in 2004.

Hurley had the chance to try to follow this same path. Hurley is 141-58 in his six seasons at UConn and 292-163 overall in 14 seasons as a college coach – adding his years at Wagner and Rhode Island.

He had four losing seasons during that span; his first year at Wagner, his first two at Rhode Island and his first year at UConn. Once he gets going, the wins pile up: Forget how those stops started, and Hurley’s record is 241-90 – a .728 winning percentage.

He therefore remains at Storrs, just like women’s coach Geno Auriemma. UConn signed Auriemma last week to a five-year extension worth nearly $19 million.

“We’re going to try to replicate that again,” Hurley said in April after winning the second straight national title. “We will maintain a championship culture. We are bringing in some very talented high school freshmen. Our returning players, through player development, will take a big step forward. We will add strategically through the portal. I don’t think we’re going anywhere.

The Lakers almost changed his mind.

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