Dan Hurley came into the Atlantic 10 with high expectations for Rhode Island. The program had been so close to making the NCAA Tournament from 2002 to 2011, but fell victim to the NIT. Coach Jim Baron had done an excellent job with the program but couldn’t get over the hump.
Then came in Hurley. He was determined to make his mark on a state university and put them on the map in college basketball. After a few years of sub-par to a little above average basketball, Hurley’s recruiting tactics and coaching ability really began to show. He brought Rhode Island to an NIT bid in 2015, then to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and wins in 2017 and 2018. He took the program to new heights and never looked back.
Hurley now has his sights set on something even bigger by building a national powerhouse and an NCAA Tournament Championship back to Connecticut.
As the Atlantic 10 takes in the news of losing one of their best coaches, we answer some questions surrounding the Atlantic 10 and what is in store for UCONN and Hurley.
Dave Ascoli (@RhodyRampage)
Kyle Allan (@Kallan441)
Alec Walt (@AlecWalt)
Ascoli: I’ve been saying that I thought Hurley could have got a better offer if he held out another year (or hell, even another month given how the carousel seems to be turning right now). So with that, I think it’s a slam dunk. I was expecting Hurley to land in one of the Power 5 conferences, or at least the Big East. For a program with some potential NCAA and Kevin Ollie legal issues coming down the road, UConn needed Hurley more than Hurley needed UConn.
Allan: I would give the hiring an A. I think this is the perfect hire for UCONN, as much as it hurts to say as a fan of the Atlantic 10 as a whole. Hurley shows drastic improvement from the day he steps into a program, to the day he has left. Took St. Benedict’s to new heights in High School Basketball, took Wagner to new heights with a 25 win season, took UB to an NCAA Tournament and took URI to back to back NCAA appearances. UCONN wants to make the next step to become a competitor to Wichita State/Cincy for the powerhouse in the AAC and Hurley will be able to do that sooner than later.
Walt: A. This was a home run hire for UCONN. Dan Hurley was the best coach in the Atlantic 10 these last two seasons. During that span he led the Rams to an overall record of 51-18. That included two wins over Creighton and Oklahoma in the last two first rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Looking at UCONN, they’ve finished below .500 in the American Athletic Conference the last two seasons and have missed the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four years. Hiring Hurley will turn those poor records around.
2.) Who should Rhode Island hire as their next head coach?
Ascoli: This one’s easy: David Cox. The current URI Associate Head Coach has been Hurley’s right-hand man since 2014, and he’s a definite head coach in the making. He has an outstanding resume, including assistant coach stints at Georgetown and Rutgers before landing at Rhody. He’s a tremendous recruiter, a great X’s and O’s guy, and he’s been around the game basically his whole life. The fear in Rhode Island was that he was going to be hired away to become a head coach sooner rather than later. To have someone in-house who can move the program forward is huge.
Allan: I think a good hire for the Rams would be John Becker of Vermont. Overall record of 166-77 during his tenure for the Catamounts and makes them an NCAA Tournament bid contender every year in their conference. His name has been rumored to other openings before but this would be an ideal move for him and his family staying in the Northeast but also taking a step up in the conference.
Walt: I think Rhode Island will hire David Cox as their next head coach. Cox was an associate head coach under Hurley and was a major recruiter for the program. He helped recruit Stanford Robinson, Fatts Russell, Jeff Dowtin, Jermaine Harris, Brendan Adams and Tyrese Martin. With five of these six players returning next season, I think Cox is the man for the job.
3.) How will this affect the current roster?
Ascoli: And therein lies the added bonus. If it’s Cox, the roster – as well as the incoming recruiting class – should remain largely unaffected. Cox was the lead recruiter on virtually every big name on the roster, so he should be able to hold it together with no trouble. If the Rams go with a different, outside candidate, however… all bets are off on roster turnover. But safe to say, I wouldn’t be optimistic as a URI fan.