Relaxing on a sofa, a pillow clutched to his belly like a teddy bear, Dan Hurley looks up at the shelf that runs around the rim of his office where a collection of game balls and small trophies sit. “That one,’’ he says, nodding toward a tiny wooden trolley car replica, ‘’is from when we won the Cable Car Classic when I was at Wagner.’’ He put the trinkets on the shelf five years ago, when he first moved into the head men’s basketball coach’s offices at UConn. “When you haven’t really done anything, you kinda fake it and put up stuff to make it look like you accomplished something,’’ Hurley says. “I mean, do I really need the ball from my 1,000th career point?”
He does not, not anymore at least. Like everything else around UConn, Hurley’s office is ready for a national championship upgrade. To the victor go the spoils, and the Huskies are in the process of sprinkling their spoils around campus. The sparkly new national championship crystal ball already has moved into a case just inside the main doors of the Werth Family Champions Center — like two steps in, where it is impossible to miss. From his office window, Hurley has a perfect view of the new 2023 championship banner hanging on the practice court wall.
On the staircase leading up to the men’s basketball offices, the Most Outstanding Player wallpaper needs to make room for Adama Sanogo, and in the hallway, there are only four No 1 jerseys framed, representing each title. The Huskies need a fifth.
These are the true definition of champagne problems, but there is, even at UConn — or maybe especially at UConn — plenty of real work to be done. That’s why, on a Thursday morning, Hurley and his staff assemble in the “situation room,’’ as the Husky staff has labeled their otherwise nondescript conference room.
This is the situation: Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins are gone for the NBA; Andre Jackson Jr. and Tristen Newton are testing the waters; Nahiem Alleyne has transferred to St. John’s; Joey Calcaterra is out of eligibility. On the bright side, a stud class is coming in, the portal is open and NIL is rolling. In the midst of the combo championship chaos and ordinary disorder, Hurley has a job to do: to make sure this championship isn’t merely a brief visit back to relevance for UConn. “My desire to experience it all again is probably greater than my initial desire to win it,’’ Hurley says. “You experience it, you can see how guys like Jay Wright and Nick Saban, the ones who strive for it every year like maniacs, you can see how addictive it is. It’s not just what you experience; it’s the way you feel about your team, that love and admiration for them. This isn’t going to be a one-hit wonder for UConn. It’s just not.’’