What Happens to UConn If Dan Hurley Leaves for the Lakers

The Huskies have two assistant coaches who could be elevated to the top job, but the transfer portal could lure much of the roster away from a three-peat contender.
Dan Hurley is reportedly a front-runner for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job.
Dan Hurley is reportedly a front-runner for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Hurley, fresh off two straight national championships with the UConn Huskies, could be on the move. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday morning the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Hurley to replace Darvin Ham as the organization’s next head coach, with talks expected to “escalate in coming days” as part of a “relentless” pursuit of college basketball’s hottest coach. Such a move would be a seismic one, particularly in the college game, where Hurley has built a budding dynasty at UConn and has rapidly entered the conversation for being the best coach in college basketball. 

Here’s how such a move would impact UConn and what to look out for in the coming days should Hurley head to the NBA.

The Coaching Search 

The beauty of the UConn job is very much in the eye of the beholder. On fundamentals alone, the job is less attractive than other blue bloods, given its location and the lack of big-time football money flowing through it, along with the subsequent long-term conference affiliation questions that come with that. Despite that, no program has had more success in the 2000s than UConn, winning national championships under three different coaches (two each by Hurley and Jim Calhoun, one by Kevin Ollie). The expectations for whoever would come next are national championships, plural. That’s a daunting task, especially given a potentially bearish financial future compared to the program’s peers in leagues with eight- and nine-figure annual television payouts coming soon. 

The job opening in early June also presents problems. Wooing top coaches who’ve already built rosters for next season would be tricky and potentially complicated further by recent contract extensions that have ballooned buyouts into the $10 million or more range. A coach from outside the UConn family would also have his hands full retaining the current roster, a priority given UConn’s legitimate aspirations for a three-peat

That makes an internal promotion perhaps the most realistic option, either on an interim basis for a year or on a full-time basis. UConn has two strong candidates on its current staff in associate head coach Kimani Young and assistant coach Luke Murray. The perceived favorite would be Young, who took over coaching duties when Hurley was ejected in a famous 2022 game against the Villanova Wildcats and owns the top title on staff. Young has long been due for a head coaching opportunity and has been openly praised by Hurley several times for his work both in game-planning and recruiting.

Hurley has praised Young for his game-planning and recruiting.
Hurley has praised Young for his game-planning and recruiting. / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Murray, an X-and-O savant and the son of actor Bill Murray, could also emerge as a potential candidate. If not tabbed the head coach, Hurley seems likely to push for him to join his Lakers staff. 

If a full search were opened up, it’d be fascinating to see which candidates emerge. Rutgers’s Steve Pikiell was on the board when Hurley took the job and he played and coached under Calhoun, but has his most talented team yet set to enroll at Rutgers this summer. Another regionally tied name that could make sense is Seton Hall’s Shaheen Holloway, who went to an Elite Eight as the head coach at St. Peter’s. Athletic director David Benedict could also take big swings at the likes of Auburn’s Bruce Pearl (a Massachusetts native) and Alabama’s Nate Oats (who previously worked in New York at Buffalo), but neither seems likely to land.

UConn’s Roster and the Transfer Portal 

If Hurley leaves, every player on the Huskies would have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal despite the portal being otherwise closed since May 1. Hurley rebuilt the Huskies’ roster this spring to have a chance to contend for a three-peat, reeling in highly regarded transfers Aidan Mahaney and Tarris Reed Jr., five-star freshman Liam McNeeley and retaining star forward Alex Karaban. A swift internal hire could help retain the current roster, though it isn’t a guarantee. Even with an internal hire made for 2023–24 after Bob Huggins was fired at West Virginia last June, five players entered the portal, with three eventually leaving. 

Karaban chose to return to the Huskies instead of staying in the 2024 NBA draft.
Karaban chose to return to the Huskies instead of staying in the 2024 NBA draft. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Given the way prices in the NIL market have exploded for top transfers as supply has shrunk in the last month, it’s safe to say there would be hugely lucrative offers on the table to try to woo UConn’s current roster into the portal. How Benedict handles this search could be the difference between the Huskies being deep in contention for a third straight championship and facing a near-impossible rebuild in June after a significant roster exodus.

The Impact on College Basketball 

In an era of significant turnover among the sport’s legendary coaches, Hurley had emerged as one of the new faces of the game. His fiery personality and ever-quotable news conferences, combined with the remarkable success of the last two years, gave Hurley the chance to take over the sport and become this generation’s John Wooden or Mike Krzyzewski. To lose Hurley to the NBA would be a brutal break for a sport hunting for star power for fans to attach themselves to. 

Plus, UConn going for a historic third straight title would be one of the biggest stories of the 2024–25 season. That pursuit being derailed in June by a coaching search would be a crippling blow months before the season tips off.


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).