By Arnie Leshin
Dan Hurley was having a ball, he even called out “Hello Jersey City” as his dad, Bob, Sr., and brother Bob, Jr., cheered and applauded.
It was just a sparkling Monday night for the Hurley family when Dan’s Connecticut men’s basketball team turned in the school’s fifth national championship at NRG Stadium in Houston, Tx.
Coming into this resounding 76-59 victory over San Diego State, the head coach said they had four national titles, were striving for five, now we’ve got our own.
Where did Jersey City come from? Well, that’s where Dan was born 50 years, where he played under his dad senior Bob at small-school powerhouse St. Anthony there, and then headed across the Hudson to play college ball at Seton Hall.
Now he’s celebrating by also putting the emphasis on Jersey City, and his dad and brother Bob no doubt appreciated it. There they were in the one lower section, the Hurley family.
Not only there, but No. 20 Andrew Hurley, a 6-foot-1 junior was on the court celebrating. That’s Dan’s youngster son, a walk-on as a freshman when his dad left his head coaching role at University of Rhode Island to take the position at UConn in March of 2018.
“It was just great,” Andrew said, “I knew all of his coaching style and player standards, and I just stayed with him.”
Andrew was playing at the time for state power Benedict Prep in Rhode Island and his dad was an assistant coach. Thus, after these two stops after first coaching at Wagner College in Staten Island, papa Dan’s overall record is 224-152 and includes 73-47 in his time with the Huskies.
No more coaching for “his” papa Bob after St. Anthony was shut down, but older brother Bob is head men’s coach at Arizona State, where he just signed a new 6-year contract.
And so they were gathered with the rest of the familiar that also included Dan’s oldest son Daniel, Jr., who also attended Connecticut.
“That was great to hear my dad call out Jersey City”, said the Husky player Andrew, “because I also grew up there, and that’s where my grandfather had a load of super seasons as a national ranked program, and both my dad and uncle Bob played for him.”
At Seton Hall is where Coach Dan met his wife Andrea, and she sure treated her guests in the stands with every UConn cheer she could think of, even some mentioning her hubby.
When he played for his dad’s Friars at St. Anthony, the school that never had a home court, they were 31-1 his junior season and ranked No. 2 in the country.
When asked about Andrew, he answered, “A solid outside shooter and tough defender.”
Andrew’s problem though is what the Huskies return, that’s 11 of the current 14 players, which is why they’re already posted as the 2024 favorite. He will be back as the shortest player on the roster.
The remainder of this tall, talented and deep lineup — 7-2 freshman Donovan Clingan from nearby Bristol, 6-10 sophomore Samson Johnson, 6-9 junior Adama Sanogo from Mali, 6-8 freshman Alex Kaokban, 6-9 junior Richie Springs, 6-9 freshman Yarron Asson, 6-6 versatile junior Andrew Jackson, and 6-5 sophomore Jordan Hawkins, who tallied 16 in the title game.
They graduate three seniors, 6-5 wing Tristen Newton, who scored the game-high 19 points, took down 10 rebounds, and handed out four assists, 6-3 Joey Caterra, a transfer from San Diego University, and 6-4 guard Nathan Diarra.
The most outstanding player against the Aztecs was Sanogo, who tossed in 17 points, scrubbed the board for 10 rebounds, and was 4-of-4 from the foul line. Jackson was the assist leader with six.
It could go down as a rather strange season for these happy Huskies. They went 17-0 against their non-conference opponents and 14-8 in the tough Big East Conference. If puzzling, they still keep the NCAA championship trophy.
They led 36-24 at halftime thanks to some keen outside shooting and overall balance. At the midway point of the second half, UConn began sending in the reserves and Andrew received a huge welcome from his family and friends looking on.
Was Geno Auriemma there for the Final Four? You bet he was, and some of his players might have also been in attendance.
Parade, yes there will be a UConn championship parade starting from the state capitol building in Harford Saturday morning at around 11 o’clock.
Can we expect the women’s players to attend, why not, they are the upper part of the finest hoops program in the land.
EXTRA POINTS —
Interesting, Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn All-America and one of Auriemma’s first elite players, was there as a broadcaster and said she’s already nervous for the weekend.
That’s when she says her daughter, Maeve Rushin, a 6-1 junior at Connecticut’s Northwest Catholic, plays for the state title either Saturday or Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, one of three home court for Auriemma’s women.
“After the semifinals,” Lobo said, “I became even more nervous for the championship against Kolbe Cathedral.”