June 23, 2024

Dan Hurley declines Lakers head-coaching job, will return to UConn: Sources


By Jovan Buha, Brendan Quinn and Dana O’Neil

Dan Hurley will not go to the NBA after all. The UConn coach declined a six-year, $70 million contract offer from the Los Angeles Lakers to become the team’s next head coach, team and league sources confirmed Monday.

Los Angeles would have made Hurley one of the NBA’s six highest-paid coaches. Instead, Hurley will return to UConn to pursue a third straight national championship — a feat that has only been accomplished once in NCAA men’s basketball history, when UCLA under John Wooden won seven consecutive titles from 1967 to 1973.

“I am humbled by this entire experience,” Hurley said in a statement Monday. “At the end of the day, I am extremely proud of the championship culture we have built at Connecticut. We met as a team before today’s workout and our focus right now is getting better this summer and connecting as a team as we continue to pursue championships.”

The 51-year-old Hurley publicly emerged as a leading candidate for the Lakers last week. Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and team governor Jeanie Buss made an aggressive pitch to Hurley in Los Angeles on Friday. Nonetheless, that wasn’t enough to sway Hurley, who cemented his status as the top active coach in college basketball by guiding UConn to back-to-back national championships in 2023 and 2024.

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The Lakers, coming off a first-round playoff exit, have been in search of their coach since firing Darvin Ham on May 3 after two seasons.

The Lakers’ plans remain unchanged, according to league sources. Their goal is to have a coach in place by the NBA Draft on June 26 — and the sooner the better. They will continue their interview and information-gathering process, which had been centered on ESPN commentator and podcaster JJ Redick and New Orleans Pelicans associate coach James Borrego, who has maintained a strong relationship with All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.

Redick was considered the front-runner in league circles before Hurley’s emergence. However, it’s unclear how the Lakers’ pursuit of Hurley will impact Redick’s interest or the potential negotiations.

Hurley was not mentioned as a candidate for the position until last Thursday. His inclusion in the process surprised some within the Lakers.

Regardless, the Lakers will move forward with their coaching search, which is now in its sixth week.

The hire is pivotal as Los Angeles hopes to retain star LeBron James, who must decide whether to exercise his $51.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season by June 29. The Lakers are open to any contract structure that will keep James in Los Angeles, league sources told The Athletic.

This is not the first time a high-profile college coach has turned down the NBA. Hurley’s decision to stay in Storrs, Conn., comes 20 years after Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski declined an offer to coach the Lakers following three of his eventual five national titles at Duke. Even former Laker Kobe Bryant reportedly attempted to persuade Coach K to take the job.

In 2010, Tom Izzo opted to return to Michigan State, turning down a job coaching James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, after wrestling with the decision for nine days. Billy Donovan nearly took a job coaching the Orlando Magic in 2007, going so far as to hold an introductory news conference, but backed out at the last minute and returned to Florida, where he had won back-to-back titles. Donovan eventually left Florida for the NBA in 2015.

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Hurley’s decision is a triumph for UConn, which is poised to be a preseason top-five team. Hurley’s UConn contract — a six-year, $32.1 million deal signed in 2023 — had a $1.875 million buyout if he left for an NBA head coaching job, compared to a $7.5 million buyout if he took another college position.

It will be fair for Connecticut fans to wonder how long they’ll keep Hurley, and what he might do when the next NBA interest comes, but for now, this win probably feels like yet another national championship parade.

With its membership in the Big East and an independent football program, UConn feels perpetually vulnerable in the larger picture of big-time college athletics, where universities with power-conference football programs outpace the school in revenue. The idea of losing Hurley created larger fears than merely results on the court next season. Keeping Hurley gives the school one of the strongest, most marketable programs in collegiate athletics.

Hurley built two title teams with two vastly different lineups. Now he’ll get a chance at a third straight and a piece of history.

The 2024-25 Huskies will lose stars Donovan Clingan and Tristen Newton. However, Alex Karaban, Hassan Diarra and Jaylin Stewart will make up the core of a team that’s rebuilt and reloaded via both the transfer portal and a top-10 recruiting class.

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(Photo: Chris Coduto / Getty Images)





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