College Hoops

With a reminder of the low point of his basketball life, Dan Hurley is on the doorstep of new heights with UConn.

Coach Dan Hurley, forward Adama Sanogo and the rest of the UConn men's basketball team will face Oregon in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., on Thanksgiving night. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant

ALBANY — A laugh was heard from behind the closed steel door to Interview Room G at the MVP Arena.

UConn coach Dan Hurley, at the doorstep of the Sweet 16, a day before what could be the breakthrough game of his long basketball career, emerged with a smile.

“P.J.,” he said, shaking his head, smiling.

P.J. Carlesimo, 73, who was interviewing Hurley as part of his role as radio analyst with Westwood One Sports, was Hurley’s coach at the low point at Seton Hall in 1993, the moment when, as a college player, Hurley had to get away from the game that had been his whole life. He nearly did not return.

“I had an unbelievable chance to play for one of the great coaches in the history of the Big East, a three-time NBA head coach, somebody who taught me a lot,” Hurley said. “I just wish, you don’t want to live too much with regret, but I kick myself that I wasn’t more mature for him, that I wasn’t more advanced in my thinking and I didn’t deliver on what he recruited me to do. When I played I thought it was him, but as I’ve gotten away from playing I realized I wasn’t an easy guy to coach.”

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For Carlesimo, that was all just Hurley being characteristically hard on himself.

“No, he’s nuts,” Carlesimo said. “He played four years at Seton Hall, three NCAAs and an NIT. He played on two of our best teams. That’s Danny always wanting to do better. Danny was a great player for us, and it was not easy for him to come to Seton Hall. It was really important for us, but to stay in Jersey was really difficult.”

The weight of carrying the Hurley name at one of his home state’s premier programs weighed heavily on Hurley, always representing his famous father, Bob Sr., the coach at St. Anthony’s High in Jersey City, and the facing comparisons to his brother, Bobby, star at Duke and in the NBA. Dan fell into bad habits and missed most of his junior season.

“As he was maturing as a college kid, P.J. was doing his best to help him through times he was suffering,” Bob Hurley Sr. said. “I don’t know if he was enjoying his experience at the time. I don’t know that it had a lot to do with P.J. .. They’re very good friends.”

Cloe Poisson / Special to the Courant

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