UConn quickly proved to be the better team Monday night, and while for a brief stretch in the second half San Diego State cut the lead to just six points, UConn asserted itself once again, putting the game out of reach.
In the end, UConn’s size and toughness was too much for the Aztecs and as victory became inevitable, watching Dan Hurley on the sideline was amazing.
Hurley’s emotions are never far from the surface. If you read this link Monday, you’ll have a good idea of how wildly his emotions can swing.
As the Huskies closed in, Hurley bounced up and down, scowled, hugged his players passionately, all while trying to coach the last few minutes as he has been trained to do. We’re not sure anyone else could have managed that array of issues.
We have talked about Hurley’s emotions at times because first, they are obvious and occasionally dramatic, and second, because they have occasionally affected the outcomes of games.
And third, because his family dynamic is amazing.
Following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps could never have been easy. Bob Hurley is arguably the greatest high school coach of all time and Bobby became a legend at Duke.
Dan lost interest in the game at one point, saying he briefly hated it, but fortunately for the game, he ultimately found his passion again.
And as the coach at famous St. Benedict’s, Hurley, still emotionally vulnerable, began to apply his family lessons. Like his father, he became a disciplinarian, kicking future NBA player Tristan Thompson off the team and benching JR Smith.
The basketball brawls with brother Bobby no doubt toughened him up too. He still has moments of self-doubt - see the link above - but he has learned to be more creative about it. On the one hand, he was yelling “freedom of movement!” at the officials Monday night, but when he was interviewed during the game and asked about the officiating, he charmingly complimented the officials and saying how much he liked them.
Doesn’t really matter. He has found ways to cope with the stress and anxiety his profession inevitably induces and has become a very good, and potentially great coach.
There were times when it seemed Hurley could spin out of control, that his emotions were simply too intense for his profession.
That time is probably past now.
Now he faces the Gary Williams question: can he survive success?
Williams was as fueled by resentment as any coach we can remember, and winning a national championship killed that. He was never the same.
We don’t think that will be the case with Hurley.
First, he’s a better man than Williams was. Second, he is clearly a brilliant coach who got his first championship just 13 years after his high school career ended . And third, Williams seemed to be fueled by rage while Hurley seems to deal more with uncertainty and self-worth.
He’ll probably always struggle to some extent with that, but it certainly appears that he has learned how to control it, if not always with himself then certainly in a professional capacity.
He has rebuilt UConn into a juggernaut this year and there’s no reason why he can’t keep things at a high level. Clearly he loves his players and they love him back. After the game, one of his players - we saw it on Twitter but didn’t save it and can’t find it now - said that while Hurley was a different color, he regarded him as his father. Clearly he is having a significant effect on his players.
This win, and the season UConn put together, puts him in a different class. We can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
Two more things to keep in mind after Monday night’s triumph by UConn: first, Jim Nantz called his first Final Four when Bobby Hurley and Duke won in 1991 and his last when Dan won with UConn Monday night.
And second, we now have three generations of Hurley champions as Dan’s son Andrew, a walk-on, will get a ring.
Family get-togethers are going to be spectacular for a while.