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UConn’s Dan Hurley Says He Rejected Coaching LeBron, Lakers ‘to Pursue Championships’

uconn’s-dan-hurley-says-he-rejected-coaching-lebron,-lakers-‘to-pursue-championships’
UConn’s Dan Hurley Says He Rejected Coaching LeBron, Lakers ‘to Pursue Championships’

Commentary

 By Michael Schwarz  June 11, 2024 at 9:14am

One of the most storied franchises in professional sports history, which boasts one of the most accomplished players of all time, has lost a bit of its luster.

The Los Angeles Lakers, winners of 17 NBA championships, failed to secure the hottest head coach in basketball when Dan Hurley of the two-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies opted to remain at the school rather than accept a lucrative offer to coach aging star LeBron James and the rest of the underperforming Lakers.

“Our focus right now is getting better this summer and connecting as a team as we continue to pursue championships,” Hurley said of his Huskies team in a statement released by the school and posted to the social media platform X on Monday.

A statement from UConn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dan Hurley: pic.twitter.com/16e77ykbVp

— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) June 10, 2024

Hurley’s 2023-24 UConn squad finished 37-3 overall and won the national championship on April 8, beating Purdue 75-60.

Measured by their cumulative margin of victory of 140 points, the Huskies authored the most dominant title run since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, per The Sporting News.

“They’re good,” Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said following his team’s 14-point loss to UConn in the Final Four. “They’re close to being bulletproof.”

Despite a less-impressive regular season, the 2022-23 Huskies looked nearly as bulletproof during their run to an NCAA tournament championship. In fact, they defeated their six opponents by a combined 120 points.

No team since the 2006-07 Florida Gators had repeated as national champions. And no team since the UCLA Bruins dynasty of the late 1960s and early 1970s has won three straight titles.

In other words, Hurley has plenty of good reasons to remain at UConn and “pursue championships.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Hurley spurned the Lakers’ six-year, $70 million contract offer.

That offer “would’ve made him one of NBA’s six highest paid coaches,” Wojnarowski wrote Monday on X.

BREAKING: Connecticut’s Dan Hurley has turned down the Los Angeles Lakers’ six-year, $70 million offer and will return to chase a third straight national title, sources tell ESPN. LA would’ve made him one of NBA’s six highest paid coaches. pic.twitter.com/hEXo3o00SR

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 10, 2024

According to ESPN, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut stayed in contact with Hurley throughout the weekend. Lamont promised reporters that he would “make sure [Hurley’s] the top paid college coach.”

Monday on X, Lamont celebrated the news that Hurley had turned down the Lakers’ offer.

“Our MVP Coach is staying in CT. Now let’s get ready for a #3peat, because Connecticut knows champions are built here!” the governor said.

Our MVP Coach is staying in CT. Now let’s get ready for a #3peat, because Connecticut knows champions are built here! 🏆 #UConnNation https://t.co/KY3tDcJmoX

— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) June 10, 2024

Not all of Lamont’s constituents approved of the governor’s priorities.

“While CT residents struggle with taxes and regulations imposed by @CTDems @GovNedLamont. Hey, let’s give him more taxpayer money!” one social media user wrote.

While CT residents struggle with taxes and regulations imposed by @CTDems @GovNedLamont.
Hey, let’s give him more taxpayer money!

— Sandie (@SandieBellz) June 11, 2024

Meanwhile, the storied Los Angeles franchise must come to grips with mediocrity and rejection.

This season, the Lakers finished 47-35 and earned a berth in the Western Conference playoffs. But the team fired head coach Darvin Ham following its first-round loss to the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

James, the 39-year-old face of the franchise and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, has failed to get his Lakers to the Finals since their championship run during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season.

His current contract includes a player option worth more than $51 million next season.

After news of Hurley’s decision broke, Barstool Sports mocked James by sharing an unrelated post of his from February 2023. “Maybe It’s Me,” he said at the time.

Dan Hurley is going back to UConn. pic.twitter.com/52e0X4GHbi

— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) June 10, 2024

All things considered, Hurley’s decision made a good deal of sense for him. After all, college and professional sports are different enterprises. And history shows that great college coaches often fail in the professional ranks.

Longtime Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, for instance, retired in January after winning seven career national championships. As coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006, however, Saban’s teams finished a combined 15-17.

From the Lakers’ perspective, however, Hurley’s rejection following the team’s very public courting of his services amounts to an embarrassment.

A handful of professional franchises — the NBA’s Lakers and Boston Celtics; MLB’s New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals; the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers — have established themselves as the gold standard thanks to prolonged on-court or on-field success.

Head coaches do not — or almost always should not — turn down job offers from those franchises. But Hurley did.

Now, James and the Lakers must look in the mirror and ask themselves why.


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Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.

Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.

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