On Thursday at Madison Square Garden, UConn formally accepted an invitation from the Big East, leaving the American Athletic Conference after a tumultuous six years.
Just as actors on a stage are taught to exaggerate every expression or emotion the entire audience to see, Hurley’s reactions are absurdly over-the-top, his face twisting into shapes not known to be possible. He’s laughing with the officials in one moment and screaming incredulously at them in the next. He’s as physical and animated with his players as any coach in the country, a testament to the mutual respect he builds between team and coach.
“The guys showed the type of grit you like to see,” head coach Dan Hurley told the media after the game. "Especially in the first year of what we’re trying to build here. That unwillingness to give in, and to stay in the game against the best team in the league, the bully in the conference. Obviously, the result was devastating, but you feel unbelievably respectful of that team.”
“It’s kind of hard to sit up here as a coach at UConn and feel real good about the effort or feel better about yourself after a 12-point home loss,” Hurley said postgame. “But after Wednesday’s game, the shame and embarrassment of our effort, the way we challenged guys coming in here about their effort, competitive nature, competitive character, I’m not sure we could have played much harder.”
Last Sunday, the UConn men’s basketball team got a shot against one of the biggest names in college basketball in the Arizona Wildcats. They let that one slip away. But on Saturday, the Huskies take on a name with even stronger weight in No. 11 Florida State, with a second chance to prove they can compete with the strongest teams in the country.
Hurley takes pride in the simple things. Offensive rebounds, hustle plays, throwing yourself on top of innocent cheerleaders to save a ball from going out of bounds. When Christian Vital did just that, Hurley came running over to help him up as the officials called the media timeout. And what did he say to his player?
“NICE F-ING PLAY!”