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New Year’s Resolutions for Dan Hurley and URI Basketball

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

 

Dan Hurley has a 15-27 record in a year and a half at URI

There isn’t a better time to talk about the future of URI basketball than on New Year’s Day. It’s symbolic, isn’t it? As individuals use the flipping of the calendar to make resolutions to make themselves better, URI men’s basketball is a collective program trying to build itself up into the best program it can be. And so, on this day of new beginnings, let’s project some resolutions for the future of Rhody basketball.

In order to justify a resolution, an individual usually has an event or events from the past to prompt the need for transition. For URI, the first event was the coaching turnover after the 2011-12 season, when Jim Baron was out as head coach and Dan Hurley was in.

Hurley was a big coup for the Rams at that time. He’d been a big time high school coach at Saint Benedict’s in New Jersey for nearly a decade, and after moving on to the college ranks he quickly build a winner at Wagner, posting a 25-6 record at the Northeast Conference school in just his second season at the helm.

Hurley came to Rhode Island and in his first season (last year) the team experienced some setbacks. After Baron left behind a team that had won a mere 7 games the previous season, there wasn’t a ton of talent available to Hurley in his inaugural season. To make matters worse, the top two holdovers from the Baron regime would end up not returning to the Rams in 2012. Billy Baron followed his father to Canisius, and Jonathan Holton was expelled from the University after being charged with a video voyeurism felony.

“I think going into last year losing Holton and Billy – who were going to be your two bridge players that could help you be competitive quicker – really hurt,” Hurley told IndependentRI.com in April of 2013.

Hurley’s statement after last year’s 8-21 campaign illustrates a key disconnect the program experienced in the Baron-to-Hurley turnover. As Hurley and Providence College coach Ed Cooley each face criticism from fans this season for having their rosters shortened by a variety of circumstances- a leave of absence and a transfer for Hurley and a pair of suspensions for Cooley- it’s Cooley who has Keno Davis holdovers Bryce Cotton (an All-Big East player) and Kadeem Batts (a fellow senior and multi-year starter) to lean on as he tries to rebuild his program on the fly. Hurley was never afforded the crutch that program stabilizers like Cotton and Batts have provided Cooley.

Without a real nucleus of scholarship players on which to build his foundation, Hurley began finding players via transfer in an attempt to bring in as much talent as possible as quickly as possible.  For the 2012-13 season, that meant Xavier Munford, a former player of Hurley’s at St. Benedict’s who had played his first 2 seasons at community colleges. Munford was one of the few bright spots on last season’s 8-21 team, leading the Rams in scoring at 17.4 points per game.

The 2013-14 Rams were expected to take several steps forward from the previous season, as Hurley was able to bring in 7 new scholarship players. E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin were expected to contribute immediately as freshmen, and all 3 transfers- junior Gilvydas Birtua and sophomores Biggie Minnis and Jarelle Reischel- figured to play big minutes for the Rams this season.

Thus far, the results have mostly been positive on an individual basis. Biruta has battled through some injuries and as the season goes on he’s expected to play more to the double-double form he showed in the Providence and UNH games. Matthews and Martin have been as advertised, and Hurley said after the Southern Mississippi game last Saturday that both players deserved to play in the 30 minute range every game. Minnis continues to grow into the starting point guard role and has been one of the most improved players on the roster over the first half of the season.

And yet, the Rams are 7-6, with a growing propensity to struggle offensively late in close games. The individual progress has not improved the team as much as optimistic fans had expected.

To make matters worse, Hurley is down to 9 scholarship players for the time being. Two thirds of his first recruiting class is out indefinitely, with Jordan Hare away from the team on a leave of absence and Mike Aaman being held out of action after an alleged assault at a Narragansett house party of which he was the victim. Only Ifeanyi Onyekaba (who sat out last season as a “year in residence” student athlete) remains with the team.

Junior guard Mike Powell, one of the key players to last season’s team, is gone, seeking a transfer after being phased out of a larger role and diminished to minimal minutes off the bench. It’s a cold reality of college sports: Hurley trying to distance himself from the program that won 15 games over the previous 2 seasons, Powell responding negatively (as most college players do) to his reduced role. A predictable result from an unfortunate circumstance, but a result that is further handicapping the Rhody roster nonetheless.

Hurley has put the blame for the diminished roster on himself, shouldering the bulk of the blame for URI’s inability to put a full roster on the floor in is time as head coach.

“We’re in our second year. I should have this roster and depth in a better position. I’ve got to do- obviously I can’t allow that to ever happen again,” said Hurley following the UNH win.

“Bottom line though this is the second year. It’s my responsibility to have better options in year two,” he said Saturday after losing to Southern Miss. Hurley later added, “In you second year, our roster- I should have more options. That’s my responsibility moving forward, and I’m not going to be saying this same thing this time next year, because I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

Hurley, to his credit, is accepting responsibility for most of what has plagued his rebuilding effort to this point. As a coach who hasn’t had experience on this level of college basketball before, Hurley is showing the resolve to learn from these first couple of seasons and build a better program because of it.

Speaking after the game Saturday, Hurley was praising reserve guard T.J. Buchanan (now the lone holdover from the Baron regime) when he expressed his commitment to doing a better job in the future.

“Moving forward in recruiting obviously you have to target talent and winners and tough people that are going to stay in the fight for you and be relentless competitors…and not bail on you, for whatever reason.”

Perhaps a sign of his frustration, that soundbyte speaks volumes about the direction the program is headed. The team undoubtedly needs to recruit well, and anyone who isn’t on board for the adversity of a rebuild probably wasn’t going to be a productive asset in the effort anyway.

Hurley asks a referee for an explanation during a TV timeout on Saturday

Fans are impatient, and even though Hurley’s contract runs through 2020, he knows as well as anyone that college coaches are expected to win early and win often. As a coach who has had incredible success everywhere he’s been, Hurley is being challenged like never before in his career and anyone who knows Hurley can vouch for the fiery competitor he is.

URI needs that side of Hurley. They need a coach that doesn’t just want to have success, but he needs to have success. But Hurley would be the first to tell you that the road back to relevance is going to be a tough one.

URI has gone “all in” with Hurley, building a new floor at the Ryan Center, redesigning the uniforms, and all but handing him the keys to the kingdom. He’s the highest paid employee the University has, in case you weren’t aware of the financial impact of major college athletics. Despite whatever the University will say about a commitment to academics first and foremost, financially speaking URI values Dan Hurley more than any other employee it has.  Dan Hurley is the man tasked with cleaning up the mess and building the best basketball program the University can possibly produce.

Next year there aren’t any more excuses about rebuilding the mess Hurley inherited. Munford will have graduated, and the only holdover left from Baron’s tenure is Buchanan. For better or worse, the Dan Hurley era is in, the Baron era is in the past, and next season is going to truly be year 1 of Dan Hurley’s URI basketball program.

Hurley needs a full roster, a full Ryan Center, and a promising season in the standings in order to truly get the program on track with some of the Atlantic 10’s best. Hurley preaches building a strong basketball culture at URI, and while the fans may not have bought in just yet (at least judging by some of the attendance numbers thus far), URI has.

Now, the team must take steps towards building a better basketball culture. Hurley needs to be better, the players need to be better, the fans need to be better, and the basketball program needs to use the second half of this season to get better and prepare for next season, when the page is finally turned completely, the transition period expires, and the next era of Rhody hoops officially arrives.

Sounds like a few good resolutions to start with this New Year.
 

 

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Comments:

This is a fluff article with a lot of lip service from Hurley:

“Bottom line though this is the second year. It’s my responsibility to have better options in year two????

"Build a strong basketball culture?

For URI, the first event was the coaching turnover after the 2011-12 season, when Jim Baron was out as head coach and Dan Hurley was in.

For URI, the second and final event will be to buy Coach Hurley and realize that extending his contract through 2020 was insanity. He simply is not the man.

Comment #1 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

Nice article, John.
More bad new this morning. Jarelle Reischel has a deep
laseration on his left thumb, and will be lost to the team
for a while.
The Jordan Hare situation, has hurt the team in it's weakest point,
as has Aaman's incident. That's his starting center and a physical backup, gone from the frontcourt. Now, Reischel. That leave Hurley with three frontcourt players.
Still,even with all these problems, if this team shot free throws better, you'd be taking about a 10-3 record and everyone would be happy.
We've only been out of two games this year.
I see, Adombowitless has put his garbage in writing again. When will mommy take his comuter away from him?

Comment #2 by Rod Carri on 2014 01 01

Another ignorant comment from the master of "know-nothingism", JA. What a lack of class and what do expect given his fan loyalties.

Comment #3 by Otto Benson on 2014 01 01

it's weakest = its weakest

Comment #4 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

More example of fluff:
"Losing two bridge players" - stop making excuses, coach.
"They need a coach that doesn’t just want to have success, but he needs to have success." Really, what the hell does this mean?
"the road back to relevance is going to be a tough one." You're on a road all right..and it's not to relevance.
"the highest paid employee the university has" enough said.
"the man tasked with cleaning up the mess and building the best basketball program the University can possibly produce." BS
"Next year there aren’t any more excuses about rebuilding the mess
when the page is finally turned completely, the transition period expires, and the next era of Rhody hoops officially arrives." More BS
"Hurley is trying to distance himself from the program that won 15 games over the previous 2 seasons" Keep trying because that's about your win total ..maybe

Comment #5 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

I am sorry but this entire article is a bunch of steaming malarkey.
When I read a quote like ...
“We’re in our second year. I should have this roster and depth in a better position".. I want to scream, "PLEASE, COACH ... JUST STOP THE EXCUSES.
And Mr. Andrade, this sentence is truly a gem:
"Hurley needs to be BETTER, the players need to be BETTER, the fans need to be BETTER, and the basketball program needs to use the second half of this season to get BETTER." I mean, come on.
You also note:
"Hurley was a big coup for the Rams at that time. He’d been a big time high school coach at Saint Benedict’s in New Jersey for nearly a decade, and after moving on to the college ranks he quickly build a winner at Wagner, posting a 25-6 record at the Northeast Conference school in just his second season at the helm."

First, Hurley was at Wagner two years; his first season 13-17. So basically he was a high school coach.
Whether we want to admit it or not, Hurley was NOT a big coup but in essence a high school coach who rode the coat tails of his famous father. The fact is a big mistake was made. And it was extended to 2020. Do you realize that's 6 more years of paying someone big bucks based on a reputation that is quickly getting very old.
IMO a sad, sad state of affairs indeed.

Comment #6 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

ADUMBOwits is going nuts! What a POS.
Go write some trash against the UConn women.
You're just an old lady with too much time on your hands.
Four ranting lunatic posts/
Are you foaming from the mouth, too?
The only thing sad is your single digit IQ.

Comment #7 by Rod Carri on 2014 01 01

The new deal also stipulates that Hurley will receive $300,000 if he's terminated prior to April of 2014, $250,000 prior to April 2016, $150,000 prior to April 2017, and $75,000 prior to April 2018.

I know it's expensive but go for the prior to April of 2014. Again, hiring a high school coach who had one "good" year at a totally unknown basketball college was a HUGH, HUGE mistake. Look, there are 100s of great high school coaches who found success without taking advantage, willfully or not, of their dad's reputation. I don't care what the ESPN experts say about Hurley, my opinion is just as important. This guy is a mistake, a Keno Davis in Kingston.. cut the losses while you can.

Comment #8 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

It looks like the wrong Hurley is in Kingston. Did you see that Bobby's Buffalo squad beat Drexel AND Alabama AND lost to Arizona by a mere four points. Four point to the nuymber one undefeated team in the United States of America. I recall a school we all know getting pulverized. Bobby's record is indeed impressive and even more impressive when you consider the short period of time he's had, not like another situation where after one and a half years all we are getting is excuses piled on excuses. I like Bobby's demeanor, too. Calm and knowledgeable. Classy like a Duke graduate. This guy knows his x's and o's. He won't be long in Buffalo, that's for sure.

Comment #9 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

2 more plops in the toilet by the mentally constipated
Joe I'm A Dumbo Witless.
What a sicko!

Comment #10 by Rod Carri on 2014 01 01

Here's my final installment on the enlightenment of the URI fan, brought to you in hopes that knowledge brings change. The truth about Dan Hurley, IMO, is that when he was head coach at Wagner, his assistant coach, brother Bobby, was the main reason for the success of the Seahawks. The proof is in the pudding today.
Furthermore, the guy was a master at pulling the wool over people's eyes when he was a high school coach saying,
"I was running a college program for nine years with high school players. "The way we traveled, the way we scheduled, the way we trained, the pressure of rankings and being an elite program were all there."
I don't believe this. The AD at URI evidently did. End of story, and a sad lesson learned.

Comment #11 by joe adamowicz on 2014 01 01

Hey Idiot of Upswich, where's you drivel
after we beat LSU at LSU?
GREAT coaching job by our coach, Dan Hurley.
If you knew your ass from your elbow, you'd have known that
Bobby inherited a full team at Buffalo,
without the slime that Dan got stuck with
academic probation staring the program in the face,
a player being arrested and thrown out of school,
and Baron's crappy players that he had to get rid of.
But don't let the facts get in the way of foaming at the mouth and
writing girlish poems about Dan Hurley.
Joe Asdumbasshit,

Comment #12 by Rod Carri on 2014 01 06




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