Plaschke: Hurley up! The Lakers need to hire UConn champ Dan Hurley now


This is crazy. This could work.

This is loud and turbulent and fraught with unending drama and unceasing peril. This could work.

I was stunned by the Thursday morning news that the Lakers have targeted college basketball’s best coach to become their next coach.

I also really, really, really loved it.

Danny Hurley? The UConn coach who just led his team to college basketball’s first back-to-back championship in 17 years?

No brainer. No question. No more looking. If the Lakers really think they can get him, they need to go get him.

A hardscrabble gym rat who could develop a new culture, instill a timeless work ethic, and shape a complete team that would thrive around Anthony Davis and excel long after LeBron James?

What’s not to like? What are they waiting for?

The Lakers need to get this done, make this happen, convince the plainspoken Jersey boy to come west and rebuild a faded Hollywood icon.

What the Chargers did with national championship football coach Jim Harbaugh, the Lakers need to do with Danny Hurley.

Steal him. Hire him. Now.

First, he’s a winner, consecutive titles with basically two different teams, triumphing in 70% of his games in six years at UConn. Did you know that the Huskies won each of their dozen tournament games in the last two seasons by at least 20 points? They not only won everything, they owned everyone.

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UConn coach Dan Hurley celebrates with forward Alex Karaban after their national title game win over Purdue on April 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

“To win [by] double digits these past two years, it’s just a tribute to our culture here,” forward Alex Karaban told reporters after this year’s title blowout over Purdue. “We’re never satisfied. We’re always hungry. We’re always going to go on runs, and we’re always going to continue to play hard to where we’re going to break the other team. No team practices like us. No team goes as hard as us.”

Second, Hurley is a teacher, turning raw talents into lottery picks, witness this year’s rise of Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle, plus the growth of first-team All American guard Tristen Newton.

“He pushes me and every single player on our team to our max every single day,” Clingan told reporters this spring. “He never lies to us; he’ll always tell us the truth. He loves us. It might not seem like it because of how much he yells, but down inside, he really loves us. He just wants the best for us. He always puts us in the best position to succeed.”

Third, he’s a smart and selfless leader, arguably the best strategist in the college game, but also one of the most emotional, pushing and prodding yet hugging and empowering — a big-time coach who would fit perfectly on a high school sideline.

In fact, according to a past quote referenced by ESPN, that’s exactly how he sees himself, which is not surprising since as recently as 2010, he coached St. Benedict’s Prep school in Newark, N.J.

“I’m basically a high school coach that’s like masquerading up at this college level,” Hurley said. “I don’t really care what people necessarily think of my intensity. It obviously shows up the right way with my team. We don’t cheat, we don’t lie. I think we’re about all the right things. Just, at times, I’m an aasshole.”

Well, yeah, he’s also occasionally that.

Since he came to UConn in 2018, the Huskies rank third in Division I with 25 technical fouls, and that’s a problem.

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UConn coach Dan Hurley calls out to his players during an Elite 8 game against Illinois on March 30.

(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Coming off the floor after a loss to Creighton earlier this season, he screamed at a heckling fan, “I will knock you out!”

After a raucous game in Providence, he challenged a fan, “Come here, come right here, you’ll get hurt!”

He later explained to the media, “You shouldn’t be yelling at me when you’re down 20. You should just wait for the game to be over and walk out. If he wasn’t barking at me, I wouldn’t have said anything to him. … You shouldn’t be running your mouth at that point in the game. Just get out of here. Just go.”

He’ll obviously have to work on that part of his game. While the Lakers would love someone with more outward emotion than Darvin Ham, they don’t need him involved in fights he cannot win.

If he takes this job, there’s enough battles that will be real.

First, there is the sordid history of college coaches attempting to coach in the NBA. While Hurley is the son of legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley Sr. and the younger brother of former Duke star and Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, he has zero NBA experience, and that matters.

In the past 30 years, only two of the 12 coaches who have jumped to the NBA had winning records. Only one coach in history, the inimitable Larry Brown, has won a title at the college and NBA levels. But those titles came 16 years apart.

It’s a different language. It’s a different game. It’s six seconds fewer on the shot clock. The best recent survivor is probably Brad Stevens, who came to the Boston Celtics from Butler and was given six years to turn the Celtics into winners again. Turns out, that was all he needed.

The Lakers are going to need to give Hurley that sort of security if they’re going to make this work.

He can’t come here worried that LeBron James will make him his fifth coaching casualty in eight Laker seasons, although it seems like LeBron likes him already.

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UConn coach Dan Hurley and his players celebrate after winning the national championship, defeating Purdue on April 8.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

“He’s so DAMN GOOD!!!” James tweeted in response to a video showing Hurley technically explaining his offense. “Along with his staff. Super creative with their O! Love it!”

Typically, Hurley, 51, was seen in the video with his cap on backward. And ironically, the video was of a podcast conducted by JJ Redick.

Oh yeah. Remember him?

Hurley also can’t come here afraid to push Anthony Davis like he once pushed big-man Clingan. In fact, that is surely one of his biggest attractions to the Lakers, his ability to move this franchise past the soon-retiring LeBron and move it into a new era with a newly inspired A.D.

They need a game changer. Hurley is it. They need a culture creator. Hurley is it. They need somebody with enough security to be LeBron proof. That could be Hurley.

They needed some of those things in 2004 when they made a deep run at replacing the resigning Phil Jackson with Duke icon Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K turned down the offer, but by even approaching the legend, Jerry Buss showed he was unafraid to navigate the stormiest of seas for the biggest, most outlandish fish.

Twenty years later, Jeanie Buss is on a similar search, once again for arguably the best pure basketball coach at any level in the world.

For the sake of rewriting Laker history and reshaping the Lakers future, here’s hoping she lands him.

Introducing new Laker Coach Danny Hurley…

This could work.



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