Hurley: Lakers make 'compelling case' to be HC

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UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley told ESPN that the Los Angeles Lakers made a “compelling case” and presented a “compelling vision” for him to become the franchise’s next coach but that he loves what he has built at two-time defending national champion UConn — and plans to make a decision on his future Monday.

In a phone interview Sunday, Hurley told ESPN that he left “extremely impressed” with Lakers VP and GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss and had been spending Sunday weighing what sources tell ESPN is a massive, long-term offer to move to the NBA.

Hurley traveled to Los Angeles on Thursday night, met with the Lakers on Friday and returned east on Saturday morning, Hurley said.

The Lakers’ pursuit of Hurley accelerated in recent days after Hurley informed his administration Wednesday and his players Thursday of the talks with the Lakers. UConn has won back-to-back NCAA titles — including a record 12 straight double-digit tournament victories — and has a top-five team returning next season.

Hurley has been at the forefront of the Lakers’ search from the beginning of the process, even while the organization has done its due diligence interviewing several other candidates, sources said. Only New Orleans assistant James Borrego had two in-person interviews in Los Angeles, sources said.

Pelinka and Buss formally discussed with Hurley their vision of marrying his dominant program — built upon both his tactical acumen and elite player development — with the storied Lakers brand.

Hurley, 51, has often described his ambition to one day coach in the NBA and traveled to L.A. to explore the full picture of a partnership with one of basketball’s winningest franchises.

The pursuit of Hurley comes on the 20th anniversary of the Lakers trying to hire Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to a record-breaking contract in 2004. Krzyzewski elected to remain at Duke, but the climate has dramatically changed in college athletics. The demands of NIL fundraising for non-power football schools like UConn are an especially relentless grind — and expected to become even more difficult.

As for the Lakers’ stars, LeBron James has been impressed with Hurley’s sophisticated offensive actions, and assuming he returns to L.A. in free agency, the possibility of using the 55th overall draft pick on USC freshman guard Bronny James makes Hurley an even more intriguing candidate. If that happens, LeBron James gets a chance to play with his son and the benefit of Hurley and his staff becoming responsible for Bronny James’ pro development.

In a social media post responding to a podcast interview with JJ Redick, James posted on X of Hurley: “He’s so DAMN GOOD!!! Along with his staff. Super creative with their [offense]. Love it.”

The Lakers have been committed to making All-NBA forward Anthony Davis a significant part of the conversation on the next head coach and want to make sure that he’s aligned with how a new coach plans to feature him on both offense and defense, sources said.

The Lakers have proceeded with conversations with other candidates over the past few weeks, but the potential of landing Hurley has been the focus of the Lakers’ search, sources said.

Part of the allure of Hurley traces back to the changing landscape of NBA roster building under the collective bargaining agreement. Because of the roster-building limitations imposed by the new second apron, the ability of big-market teams to construct contending rosters by trading multiple draft picks and young players for a third-star player has largely been eliminated. Beyond the 17th overall pick in this month’s draft, the Lakers have a young core of Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and Max Christie that management believes can show even greater improvement under Hurley’s coaching, sources said.

After historically dominant back-to-back national title seasons, Hurley has emerged as the most coveted coach in the sport — and the possibility of him leaving UConn and the Big East Conference for the Lakers has massive implications for both college basketball and the NBA. Hurley has constructed a juggernaut that has lapped the sport — culminating with the NCAA’s first repeat champion in 17 years and a tournament performance that produced the biggest point differential in tournament history — 140 points.

The possibility of UConn winning a third straight title does loom with the return of a preseason top-five team, but the Huskies did lose two probable lottery picks (center Donovan Clingan and guard Stephon Castle) and a first-team All-American point guard (Tristen Newton) to the NBA draft.

The Lakers dismissed coach Darvin Ham after a first-round exit in the Western Conference playoffs. Ham was 94-70 in two seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2023.

Hurley is 141-58 (.709) in six seasons as the UConn coach. The son of Naismith Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr. — for whom Hurley played at famed St. Anthony High School of Jersey City, New Jersey — Dan Hurley spent nine years as a high school coach at St. Benedict’s Prep before rapidly rebuilding college programs at Wagner and Rhode Island. His older brother, Bobby, is the head coach at Arizona State.

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