Dan Hurley woke up on Christmas morning to find an easel in his house.
“I mentioned to [my wife] Andrea that I wanted to get into painting,” said the UConn head coach, who isn’t into golf nearly as much as other college coaches. “I haven’t been able to get to it yet.”
While the thought of Hurley applying paint to canvas might evoke an image of calmness and serenity, the coach’s on-court demeanor — as well as his team’s performance this season — presents a far more chaotic picture.
His Huskies, who started the season 14-0 and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25, have since lost five of their last seven. Thought to be the Big East favorite entering conference play, the Huskies are 5-5 in league games and trying to regain the rhythm that saw them notch double-digit wins over Alabama and Iowa State en route to a Phil Knight Invitational title.
Fittingly, opportunity knocks for Connecticut to reassert itself and earn some measure of revenge on Wednesday night when the 19th-ranked Huskies host the team that handed them their first loss — No. 13 Xavier — at Gampel Pavilion (6:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app).
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for UConn in recent weeks, but the unbeaten non-conference season still has them in position to earn a No. 5 seed in Mike DeCourcy’s latest NCAA Tournament bracket forecast.
While Hurley obviously prefers the highs to the lows, the passion that builds in him on the daily 40-minute drive from his home in Glastonbury to Storrs never wavers.
“This is a drug, man,” said Hurley. “There’s nowhere else where you can get the adrenaline rush and the highs of doing this every day. Getting the win provides such a rush, but even the falling and being at the bottom when people crush you. That feeling of getting out of bed and needing to respond, and knowing you have the courage to live life like that.”
Hurley’s realization that coaching would be his pathway came on Jan. 6, 1996 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. He was a senior at Seton Hall at the time, and that afternoon Pirates head coach George Blaney assigned Hurley to guard Georgetown star Allen Iverson.
The future Hall of Famer matched his career-high with 40 points in a Hoyas victory.
“I knew I would coach that day when Iverson went off on me,” Hurley said with a chuckle. “When I was holding onto the thought of maybe playing in the NBA, that was the moment when I was like,…