The Time I Met UConn Coach Dan Hurley, And It’s Lasting Effect

I was a huge Seton Hall basketball fan as a kid. Growing up just 30 miles from the South Orange campus, I had a chance encounter with the team's point guard in 1992, #15 Dan Hurley. Now the fearless leader of the NCAA men's basketball champion UConn Huskies, Hurley unexpectedly gave me 30 seconds of his time all those years ago. And it provided me with a memory I'll cherish for the rest of my life. Shortly before Christmas that season, I was about to embark on one of my favorite adventures of the year. The father of a friend of mine was a proud Seton Hall alumni. Once a year, he would take two of us to campus on a Saturday afternoon. At this time, the Pirates played most of their home games at Brendan Byrne Arena (RIP) in East Rutherford. So, there would not be a game for us to attend that was actually at Seton Hall when we would visit. In these pre-internet days, we didn't know if there would even be a practice going on. Still, we took our chances. Our day would consist of no concrete plan other than hitting the bookstore (which was also the team store), roaming aimlessly, and then hitting White Manna's Hamburgers in Hackensack on the way home. This became an annual tradition for my friend and I, all led by his generous father who knew how much I loved basketball in general, but mainly this Seton Hall squad. In the early '90s, the team was coached by high-profile and legendary hoops coach P.J. Carlesimo. They were always competitive. The team was just so exciting. #24 Terry Dehere was the all-star. #21 Jerry Walker was my guy. I always wore #21 in every sport during my youth playing days because of Walker. #50 Luther Wright was the big man. #55 Artūras Karnišovas was the X-factor. Then, #15 Dan Hurley was the fire. I recall him sometimes going by "Danny Hurley" at that time. He was the electric point, who was full of energy and emotion. Much like you see now on the sideline at UConn. Dan Hurley Knew How To Make A Difference Even Back Then On this foggy December day we were disappointed to see there was no open practice for us to get a peek at. The bookstore would have to do. I picked out a blue Seton Hall cap that had a white brim. As I paid at the counter with a $20, the cashier asked me who my favorite player was. "Jerry Walker," I said before she could finish her sentence. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I followed it up with a snappy, "But, I also love Danny Hurley." Just then I get a tap on my left shoulder. "What's up little man." Guess who happened to walk in and get in line behind me. He was sporting a thick Seton Hall basketball t-shirt that had #15 prominently screen-printed in blue across the belly. I was stunned: it was Dan Hurley himself. "You a Pirates fan?" he asked in the same thick Jersey accent you hear today at those post-game press conferences. "You guys are the best, my favorite team," I still remember every word of the exchange. Hurley complimented my choice of hat and then offered to sign it. The cashier handed him a black Sharpie, and he signed the white brim with the #15 below his name. We arrived at Seton Hall that day expecting a few hours of taking in all things Pirates basketball. It ended up being just about 25 minutes, but with a chance encounter that still resonates with me today. Now, as a youth coach, I frequently think about Hurley's leadership and passion for the game. Sure, he comes from New Jersey basketball royalty, but he is also fiercely true to himself. His father was a 26-time state champion St. Anthony's high school coach.  His brother Bobby Jr. was an all-everything point guard at Duke who went on to play in the NBA for seven seasons (now head basketball coach at Arizona State). However, Dan's gesture inside the school bookstore over 30 years ago is part of what I believe makes him the best coach in college basketball today. He didn't have to do that, but Hurley, with sincere authenticity, went out of his way to make a little fan's day. I watched him play so closely for the remainder of his career at the Hall. I was in awe of how much intensity he displayed in every single game. I try to convey that sort of focused passion when I coach youth football, again often inspired by Hurley. As he continuously proves, the little things make such a big difference. Even if you watched just the championship game vs. Purdue you would notice how much mutual respect there is between Hurley and his players. He speaks of (and coaches) each one of them as unique individuals. UConn just became the first team to win back-to-back championships in 17 years. A few days earlier, Seton Hall won the NIT championship. Coach Hurley is getting a lot of praise and recognition for the manner in which he leads his team. He deserves every bit of it. [select-listicle listicle_id="743039" syndication_name="5-athletes-podcasts" description="yes"]

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