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UConn coach proving to be more than just a chip off the old block

He was overwhelmed with emotion, requiring nearly 30 seconds to gather his thoughts before he addressed this question: “As a coach, how similar are you, would you say, to your dad?”

Silence filled the press conference room in the bowels of T-Mobile Arena.

Dan Hurley pensively searched for an answer.

“Just the coaching part, you know,” said Connecticut’s capo, now one game away from the Final Four. “I’m just happy that my dad is at the games.”

The great Bob Hurley was at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night to watch his son’s Huskies dismantle Arkansas. Hopefully, he’ll be there Saturday to watch them play Gonzaga. He’s 75 now, retired after a 45-year tenure at the defunct St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey.

With 28 state championships, four national championships and the idle time to experience his son’s success.

“To do this together is special, not just the great moments, but having to pick each other up after great failures,” the younger Hurley said of the fulfillment he feels coaching.

“Just doing it all together, the roller-coaster ride. It’s like it’s a bond that you have with other people that most people don’t get to experience.”

From one family to another

The closure of St. Anthony ended for the elder Hurley a coaching career that began with the 1972-73 season, during which Dan was born — thereby allowing him to experience the entirety of the dynasty.

He played for his father, then for five years at nearby Seton Hall, where he manned the point for the Pirates from 1991 until 1996.

“Probably really gritty. Played a lot of defense,” said Huskies junior wing Andre Jackson Jr., hip via YouTube to the nuances of Hurley’s game. “When he told me, though, he said he was more of like a playmaker, had a lot of different skill sets.”

Namely the ability to connect with other people.

It’s what Hurley cherishes most about his role, dating back to the 1996-97 season when he joined his father on St. Anthony’s bench. Then to Rutgers, where he worked four years as an assistant. Then to St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey, where he eclipsed 200 wins faster than any coach in the state’s storied history.

Then to Wagner, where he debuted in 2010 as a collegiate head coach, then to Rhode Island in 2012 and Connecticut in 2018.

“So you truly are — you’re family,” Hurley said of his teams.

“We spend 11 months a year together,” he said. “Every day that these guys are on campus, our program runs summer one, summer two, they’re not optional programs. Like, every day these guys are on campus, and we’re together every day.”

Plenty to be proud of

Now they’re in Las Vegas, and soon they’ll be elsewhere: either home or in Houston for the Final Four depending on what happens against the Bulldogs in the West Regional final.

Their drubbing of the Razorbacks serves as a signature victory and a prelude to one of the most important games Hurley will ever coach.

That’s precisely what he’s been preparing for since 1973.

“At this time of the year, I think for most teams everything is pretty automatic,” Hurley said.

And it would certainly seem that way for his Huskies, for whom he described their trajectory Thursday.

“We develop our young players and mix in transfers to supplement,” he said. “So we’re all about player development. We’re all about our culture. And just the way that we do it, the way we go about things, I think, I’m proud of. I’m proud of how we’ve gotten here.”

Surely, the great Bob Hurley is, too.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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