Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley is one of the top names available on the head coaching market and he’s been connected to Pitt, with Peter Thamel of yahoo.com even calling him the favorite to be the next head coach of the Panthers.
Coincidentally, Hurley’s Rams are playing in the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh this week, with a first-round matchup with Oklahoma set for a 12:15 p.m. tip-off at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.
Needless to say, there’s a good deal made about Hurley’s visit to Pittsburgh and during his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday, he acknowledged the speculation.
“We’re in a social media age, so for me to sit up here and say I have no awareness wouldn’t be truthful, but I haven’t thought one second about any other team, program or what city I’m playing in relative to who has a coaching vacancy,” he said.
Hurley added that his name being tied to coaching searches is nothing new and that it’s not the first time something like this has come up. He doesn’t think it will be a distraction for his players.
“Earlier in the year, during one of our conference games, the student section was yelling to our bench, ‘Your coach is going to X school,’” Hurley retold. “(Rhode Island freshman) Fatts Russell asked me after the game if I was coaching the next game. So yeah, I had a conversation with him.”
“The players, internally, everyone knows where my head is at and they’re used to it. It’s been like that every offseason. It’s just happened a little bit sooner for them than it normally would. But this isn’t the first time my name has been connected to jobs. They understand the situation. They’re used to it, I’m used to it and it’s not a distraction at all.”
Hurley is no stranger to Pittsburgh. He’s been coaching against Duquesne in the Atlantic-10 and played in the 2017 A-10 Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Before that, he faced Robert Morris while in the Northeast Conference at Wagner and came to Pitt as a player with Seton Hall back in the early 1990s.
“I didn’t always play well,” Hurley said. “We played in the Fitzgerald (Field House), I think. We had some really bad games in there. So, not too many fond memories as a player. P.J. didn’t walk out real happy with us after several of those nights in there. … I remember struggling against Sean Miller early on playing there and then Jerry McCullough.”
Since then, Hurley’s trips to Pittsburgh have been more rewarding, including the chance to cut down the nets with Rhode Island last year after the A-10 title game.
“I’ve had better success as a coach coming back in here with Wagner several years back in my second year there,” Hurley said. “That was a pretty neat moment followed up by the nine-hour bus ride back to Staten Island. Then last year here with the A-10 Tournament. I feel like we play well in Pittsburgh. We play well in this arena. Hopefully, we have some magic in the tournament here.”
It’s been a while since Hurley’s last visit to Pitt’s campus, but he’s followed from afar the progress the program made over the last two decades.
“Obviously, I followed the program,” he said. “I’m a basketball junkie. So the work that Ben and Jamie did there was amazing.”
Hurley didn’t field any direct questions on his future, but it’s believed that he’s in the running for the Pitt job as well as the opening at Connecticut and could be in consideration elsewhere.