Hurley To Rutgers? Don’t Be Surprised.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Fans of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball program like what they see. Despite the team’s losing record and the fact that they will likely not be participating in the Atlantic Ten Tournament next month in Brooklyn, fans like what is going on with the program and, more importantly, who is in charge of it.
First year coach Dan Hurley has energized what had become an apathetic fan base shortly after his hire. With his ability to recruit top talent to Kingston to his aggressive style of coaching, Rhody fans are dreaming of a great future for their Rams which they believe will include an appearance in the coveted NCAA Tournament.
But despite all of that enthusiasm, there is also concern by many that Hurley may not be long for URI and that his tenure could be a ot shorter than anyone had anticipated.
As mostly everyone knows, URI is generally a stepping-stone program for coaches who excel in Kingston. Do well at URI and the chances are good that you will land a job in a major conference. Just ask Al Skinner and Jim Harrick who left for the Big East and SEC respectively in recent years. Before that, it was Tom Penders who left for the University of Texas.
For Hurley, many believed when he took the URI job last spring that it wasn’t a matter of “if” but rather “when” he would be on to bigger and better things.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is quite possible that Hurley could be one-and-done in Kingston.
You see, down in central New Jersey, there are two programs that may be looking for head coaches just about a month from now.
In South Orange, New Jersey, the word is that Kevin Willard may be safe for another year as the head coach of the Seton Hall Pirates. As of the time this column was published, Seton Hall was (13-15) overall and an abysmal (2-13) in the Big East Conference.
Now completing his third season at Hurley’s alma mater, Willard’s Pirates have finished 12th and 10th in the conference standings in each of his first two seasons. However, they are trending in the wrong direction this year and may finish anywhere from 13th to 15th place in the 15-team Big East.
But while Willard might be safe for another year a Seton Hall, the rumblings out of New Brunswick, New Jersey are that Mike Rice has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel at Rutgers.
It’s not that Rice wants to leave the State University of New Jersey, but he will likely be asked to leave after a controversial-filled disappointing season.
In addition to being just (4-11) in the Big East, Rice was the center of controversy last December when the school suspended him for 3 games without pay and fined him an additional $50,000 after a university investigation revealed a pattern of abusive behavior and language towards his players.
Many times a coach can survive a controversial suspension like the one Rice received or a bad season. But, when you combine the two it becomes almost impossible to survive.
Which brings us to Hurley.
If Rutgers or Seton Hall are looking for a new men’s basketball coach, many believe that Dan Hurley would be at the very top of their wish list.
Being a “Jersey guy,” the belief is that Hurley would be able to recruit the very best talent in the state and keep it within the state’s borders which would go a long way toward rebuilding either program.
The good people of New Jersey saw what he did a couple of years ago just over the Goethals Bridge at Wagner College in Staten Island where he led the Seahawks to 25 victories in just his second year at the helm.
Hurley also built St. Benedict’s (Newark, NJ) into one of the top high school programs in the country prior to that and his father Bob has been the long-time legendary coach of St. Anthony (Jersey City, NJ).
Regardless of the fact that URI will likely not reach double-digit wins in his first year at Rhode Island, the people in New Jersey know what Hurley can do which is why he would very likely be on their short list if and when either school searches for a new men’s basketball coach.
Would Hurley leave URI after only one season? In a New York, or should we say a New Jersey minute!
While some might argue that he would be turning his back on the transfers and recruits that he has brought into the URI program and not coming anywhere near to fulfilling his commitment to the school, such is life in the big business that is division one college basketball.
Coaches know that they are hired to be fired and, because of that, often take advantage of a great opportunity when one presents itself.
After all, Hurley left Wagner after only two years to take a step up in both competition and pay to come to URI. Why, then, wouldn’t he do the same if the opportunity afforded itself this spring? The answer is: he would!
And it would be tough to blame him.
The question locally would be: what would URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn do if that scenario were to unfold? Would he open up a new coaching search for the second time in as many years or would he consider offering the job to assistant coach Bobby Hurley who is very well liked and respected down in Kingston?
And even if Bjorn were to offer the job to Danny Hurley, would he accept?
Wagner wanted him to take over for Dan last spring but Bobby wanted to come with his younger brother to Rhode Island. Would Bobby make the same decision this time around or decide to take a crack at being a head coach himself?
Despite the optimism for the future of URI basketball, there are many unanswered questions that are lurking in the not-so-distant future.
It could give new meaning to the phrase “March Madness” in Rhode Island.