KINGSTON—Amidst national speculation he would be leaving the program after just one season, URI men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley put an end to all the rumors last Friday when he signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Kingston until 2020.
In the wake of the scandal and dismissal of Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice earlier this month, the popular name in the sports pages tabbed to be the successor was Hurley.
With the successes of his early head coaching career – just three years of experience as a head coach at the Division I level – the New Jersey native looked like the right choice to head back to his home state and take over a program in a big time basketball conference.
Though he denies any formal offers were made, Hurley explained at a Wednesday press session there was little doubt he was going to be leaving URI, regardless of what opportunities may or may not have been out there for him.
“I have a great life here,” said Hurley. “It was a real easy decision for me. I had had communication with the players on the team and the incoming recruits and their families and high school coaches and they knew all along where my heart was and is.
“It seemed like everyone else out there was responding to various reports, but the people I coach with, the people I get to coach next year and several years moving forward were always aware of where I was going to be and I’m happy to be back here and I’m happy to be the coach here.”
There has been a disturbing trend in college basketball of late that has seen many Division I coaches turn on their programs as soon as something that could be considered a better opportunity becomes available.
Given his departure from Wagner College after just two seasons to come to URI and his connection to the state, many bought into the Rutgers speculation.
Hurley, however, says he does not have a desire to jump from program to program in hopes of greener pastures, but rather to take over a program and develop it into that better opportunity for which coaches are looking.
“When I left Wagner,” said Hurley, “I felt like I had to get to a place where I could settle in and make it not a stepping stone, but a destination type of job. I think the University of Rhode Island has that type potential. I took the job with the mindset that I am going to be very, very successful here and I’m going to be here a very, very long time.”
That development of URI basketball into a top-tier program seems to be the impetus of Hurley’s extension, which focuses primarily on “several programmatic changes and enhancements for the student-athletes,” according to the press release issued last Friday.
Hurley was looking to improve things like his team’s travel schedule and training opportunities to help his players perform better not just on the court, but also in the class room.
The head coach also wanted to make sure the other members of his staff were given their due credit for their work with the Rams.
The extension was seemingly less about his own job security as it was about helping to improve things for everyone else involved with URI basketball.
“We found ourselves at a competitive disadvantage at really significant junctures during our season because of our inability to get back to campus effectively or efficiently via travel,” said Hurley, “which affected our students ability to academically prepare, to get their body in a recovery type of mode so that we can be more efficient, more effective, more productive.”
With the University’s newfound investment in the basketball program and the coach’s commitment to the school, the stage has been set for the Rams to rebound from their 8-21 season and become a contender in the Atlantic 10.
“I think there are things you need in place in your program if you want to compete at a high level, if you want to compete for championships,” said Hurley. “You have to have that type of commitment level from the university and the athletic department. I think we have those things in place that are going to match the level of the talented kids we are going to bring in here.
“Everything is beginning to get put in place here for us to compete at a high level in Division I basketball.”