PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Now that Rhode Island’s season is over, the focus of the Rams’ offseason shifts to Dan Hurley’s future.
Will he still be roaming the sidelines in Kingston again next year or somewhere else?
All signs point to the eight-year head coach leading a Power 5 conference program in 2018-19, and quite possibly, the one here in Pittsburgh.
This weekend was essentially a public job interview for the 45-year old coach in front of Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke and the Panther faithful. It will be up to Lyke, though, to reel in the younger of the two Hurley brothers. Dan’s older brother, Bobby, is the head coach at Arizona State.
Despite being blown out by Duke, 87-62, Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, what Hurley has accomplished at Rhode Island in six years has been nothing short of impressive. In what is largely perceived as his final season at the helm, he led the Rams to 26 wins, second most in school history, the A-10 regular season championship, and their second straight NCAA tourney appearance. For those reasons, there will be a line of high-profile suitors jockeying for his services over the next several weeks.
The post-game press conference felt not just like an ending for the Rams’ five-man senior class but also Hurley himself. When asked about Rhode Island’s growth as a program going forward, he subtlety hinted at what it would take: continued recruiting success and an investment—the key word here—from the athletic program.
“As a program, the investments will have to increase, but that’s like with any program trying to get better,” Hurley said. “You have to rely on the expectations with your investment, and these players deserve to operate at the highest level in our league.”
Although he was discussing the growth of his younger players, his word choice of investment was percipient. One way or another, Hurley is headed to a bigger payday. Whether it’s Rhode Island opening up the checkbook or a bigger program plucking him from the list of hot name coaches that remains to be seen.
When directly asked about his future outside of the Rhode Island locker room, Hurley deflected any attention to the players inside.
“I give could give a crap about who’s got an opening or anywhere,” Hurley said. “I haven’t thought about it for a second. I couldn’t care less about any other school in the country that’s looking for a coach or talks about me on social media. I could give two craps about that.”
“My heart and my mind are with this program and these players that just lost a brutal game after having an amazing season.”
Hurley added his agent has been smart to avoid talking about his future with him, but we’ve seen this same scenario unfold every spring to be not be naïve.
If Lyke wants to win this high-stakes race, she must move with a sense of urgency, especially in the wake of Friday’s news. As many as eight current Panthers have requested their release from the university, and late Saturday it was reported a ninth player, Jared Wilson-Frame, asked for his release.
Now, the request to transfer doesn’t necessarily mean a player will bolt for another opportunity, but it does signal the disconnect between the athletic administration and the players. A quick resolution and hiring the right coach could sway the players to remain in Pittsburgh, and if anything, restore some modicum of trust with a disgruntled fan base.
Rhode Island’s season may be done, but the Dan Hurley Watch has officially begun.