College Hoops

How Dan Hurley became the face of UConn Huskies basketball

How Dan Hurley became the face of UConn Huskies basketball

BOSTON — At the “under 4” timeout in the second half of UConn’s Elite Eight evisceration of Illinois at TD Garden on Saturday, coach Dan Hurley walked across the court and began waving his arms to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

The UConn faithful who turned this Garden into Storrs North for a long weekend responded accordingly to the pleas of Hurley’s arms, and he channeled that energy to a touching crescendo — a chest-bump with his son, Andrew, a UConn walk-on.

The scene epitomized a game that offered the full Danny Hurley experience, as his foot-stomping histrionics drew smirks from comedian Larry David, who was sitting in the front row. Hurley’s day ranged from frenetic to introspective, as No. 1 overall seed UConn blowtorched No. 3 Illinois in the second half to win 77-52 and push toward more rare air.

All eyes will be on Hurley for the next week, as he has UConn in the Final Four for a second consecutive season and has emerged through early failures at the program to somewhat suddenly become one of the faces of an entire sport.

And, fittingly, he’s not ducking any of the pressure or stakes. “The level of basketball that we’re playing right now,” he said matter-of-factly, “is going to be really, really hard to beat.”

With his horn-rimmed glasses, streams of sarcastic New Jersey bile and a look on his face as if the officials are trying to convince him of the Easter Bunny’s existence on every whistle, Hurley is at the helm of one of the sport’s most dominant teams in recent memory and on the cusp of joining elite coaching company.

That dominance manifested in one of the most remarkable cloudbursts in NCAA tournament history Saturday evening in Boston. UConn rattled off a remarkable 30 consecutive points to humiliate a 29-win Illinois team that entered the game with the country’s No. 2 offense.

“The level of basketball that we’ve played to this point, it’s been unparalleled, just the defense, and unparalleled in terms of what we’ve been able to do here and the domination of the quality teams,” Hurley told a small group of reporters after the game.

Fluent in deprecation and with a sideline face that twists into a perpetual state of bemusement, even Hurley came away impressed. And he freely acknowledged the hairpin turn his own reputation has…

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