To Leave or Not to Leave: Where Should Dan Hurley Coach Next Season

For all but 16 teams, 34 if you include the NIT, CBI and CIT, it’s the offseason. Time for coaches to turn the page and look forward to next season. They try to envision what their team is going to look like seven months from now. For Dan Hurley, that process could start later than usual. Currently the head coach of Rhode Island, Hurley is maybe the most desired coach in college basketball. He’s on the short list for maybe every high major program with a coaching vacancy. Ever since the firings of Kevin Ollie and Kevin Stallings, Hurley has been rumored to be heavily desired by both UConn and Pittsburgh. As Jon Rothsein reported today, Pitt already offered him a multiyear contract.

For 95% of “mid” or “low major” coaches, the move is a no brainer. If you can get a job at an ACC school, or a school with the prestige of UConn, you take it. But this isn’t any mid major coach. And this isn’t the first “high major” coaching job he’s been offered. Hurley could have taken Rutgers two years ago. A jersey kid returning home to rebuild a tumultuous program. Hurley turned it down. Instead Hurley spent the next two years taking Rhode Island to the NCAA Tournament. He won the A-10 Tournament last season, and was regular season champs this year. Now the offers are coming in again, and the expectation at least is that Hurley is going to make the move. But are his options now better than what he turned down two years ago?

Pitt is a disaster

Rutgers isn’t a dream job. They don’t have the basketball history that Pitt and UConn have, but that’s all those programs have right now. History. Pittsburgh is coming off a season in which they went winless in the ACC conference. They had some embarrassing performances, including a seven point first half against Virginia. After firing Kevin Stallings, they saw eight players request transfer from the program. As if the coaching position could not be any less desirable, the roster is now completely cut up. Competing in a conference as tough as the ACC, this program is maybe in worse shape than Rutgers was two years ago. Pitt doesn’t need a rebuild, they need a miracle.

UConn is better, slightly

Connecticut is a little better of a situation than Pitt, but that’s not saying much. The program has tailed off a little since Shabazz Napier carried the Huskies to a National Championship. Ollie had his struggles retaining players as well. Last year, UConn saw three players transfer, which ultimately hurt them this year when several others went down with injury. With all the talent in the Northeast, you have to be able to recruit that region if you want to put Connecticut back on the map, figuratively. Hurley can certainly recruit; The senior class he is graduating at Rhode Island this year proves it. If UConn can avoid having their whole team transfer like Pitt did, it could be a quicker rebuild in a conference that is much easier to compete in than the ACC.

Or, he can stay

Neither job is as glamorous as it was a few years ago. The prestige has been wiped away from both programs after a couple of strung together sub par seasons. Hurley graduates a heck of a senior class this year, but he does have enough players coming back and coming in, that will have Rhode Island contending at the top of the A-10 again next year. Another trip to the NCAA Tournament will put Hurley in contention for the next group of jobs that open up. He turned down Rutgers, he could do it again.

Stay or go, Danny Hurley will be a wanted man. He and his players completely turned around a Rhode Island program in his time there. It is that turnaround that makes him such a heavily desired target by both Pitt and UConn. I think if Hurley were to make the move, UConn makes the most sense. It’s not a total rebuild, and it’s an easier program to sell to recruits initially. The rise to the top of the AAC is much easier than the ACC. And it’s easier when you have a player or two to start with. As the coaching carousel goes round and round, we may not see any schools make a move until Hurley makes his decision.

UConn Fires Kevin Ollie

The Kevin Ollie era is over at UConn. University department of athletics made a statement early this morning. In the statement, the department said “The University of Connecticut has initiated disciplinary procedures to terminate the employment of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Ollie for just cause.” 

Ollie was one of the hottest coaches in basketball just four years ago. After winning the National Championship, every level of coaching was an option for Ollie. He was heavily rumored around the Oklahoma City vacancy, but stayed at UConn. It has been downhill ever since for Ollie and the Huskies.

Ollie had a career record of 127-79 as the head coach at Connecticut, but UConn’s best finish in the AAC was third. The past two seasons Connecticut has gone 16-17 and 14-18. Ollie has seen players transfer from the program recently, and has not been effective in the recruiting landscape. It was beginning to feel more and more like change was needed.

One of the biggest issues for Connecticut is where do they go next? Ollie will surely be fine; With his NBA background he could serve as an assistant to a team next year. One name that will certainly be thrown around is Dan Hurley. Hurley had been nothing short of magnificent at Rhode Island and will surely be at the top of every team’s list. It will be interesting to see if UConn could sway him over URI, and the countless other schools that will come calling.

Time will tell how this works out for both sides. For now, UConn has been embarrassing for the better part of two seasons, new blood and a shake up was needed. This is March, right?

Freshman Focus: Terrence Clarke is making a name for himself – Talks to HG Insider

Terrence Clarke has begun to make a name for himself just as a freshman. The class of 2021 wing from the Rivers School in Massachusetts has received offers from UConn, Georgia Tech and Rhode Island. He has had good performances on big stages and has enjoyed his first taste of high school basketball.

“It’s been much more than I expected and I’d have to say it’s going well,” said Clarke. “There have been a lot of things I feel I have improved upon and learned. I have just remembered to stay in the moment with no expectations.  I just make sure to have fun.”

He has received a lot of attention for player his age, but he still makes sure to stay hungry and push for more.

“I stay as humble as possible and put hours in the gym to be considered one of the best if not the best,” he said. “I’ve been noticed for it, but I try to stay focused and put more time into the gym.”

Many high school and college players watch certain players in the NBA to add to their game. For Clarke that player is Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant.

“In my eyes, Kevin Durant is the best player in the world so I watch a lot of his clips,” Clarke said. “I try and take as much as I can from him. I watch a lot of film on him to help correct my game.”

Clarke has set goals that will keep him on track and continue to grow on and off the court.

“The goals I set for myself are simple,” he said. “I want to keep being positive and have more patience on and off the court. I want to learn and take in as much as I can to fully understand this game.”

Does Latest NCAA Investigation Spell End for Kevin Ollie at UConn

Photo via Hartford Courant

It’s been a rough season for Kevin Ollie and the Connecticut basketball team on the court this year. It looks like things will be getting worse off the court as well. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported this morning that the NCAA will be investigating the Connecticut men’s basketball team. The investigation will focus on the recruiting actions of head coach Kevin Ollie. The school has confirmed that they have been notified by the NCAA. The Huskies are coming off their first losing season since 1986-87, Jim Calhoun’s first year on the sidelines. Ollie has an overall record of 123-70 as the head coach of UConn, and of course, one national championship. However, he has never had better than a third place finish in an American Conference that is just gaining respect this year thanks to the addition of Wichita State.

This year, Connecticut sits at 11-9 and 4-3 in the AAC. They have blowout losses to Michigan State (20), Arkansas (35), Auburn (25), Memphis (24), and Villanova (20). Four of these five teams are NCAA tournament teams, but a team with the prestige of UConn shouldn’t be getting walked over like this. Injuries also haven’t helped their case; Losing Alterique Gilbert was a big blow. That said, the loss would not be as massive is Ollie was able to retain some of the talent he had recruited.

“The NCAA has notified UConn of an inquiry into its men’s basketball program. We are working closely with the NCAA’s enforcement division as they conduct this inquiry. “ – University of Connecticut official statement (via ZagsBlog)

This past off-season, UConn saw four players, who would have factored into their rotation this year, transfer. Steven Enoch left for Louisville, Juwan Durham transferred to Notre Dame, and Vance Jackson, a starter last year, left for New Mexico after his freshman year. Then there was prized recruit Makai Ashton—Langford, who backed out of his letter of intent and chose Providence over the Huskies. These departures left UConn paper-thin, and it’s showing on various occasions.

Ollie does have some nice pieces on his team. Jalen Adams is very talented, and I don’t think it’s just a product of a good player on a bad team. Terry Larrier has been a nice second scoring option as well. But it’s not nearly enough to compete in their sub par conference, let alone on a national stage. If UConn wants to get back to the national recognition they once had, change may be necessary.

Mediocre seasons, embarrassing losses and players transferring out is enough to make a coach’s seat warm. Add in an NCAA investigation and you may have a full-blown seat on fire. The AAC needs UConn to be UConn again. A conference with Wichita State, Cincinnati and a good UConn team, gives them a strong leg to stand on when talking about strength of conferences. For that to happen, it may require a change at the helm for Connecticut. We will see how the rest of the season turns out, and what comes from this NCAA investigation, but it might be time for change in Storrs.

Breaking Down the PK80: Victory Bracket

In honor of Nike founder Phil Knight, ESPN will be airing the PK80 tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. Consisting of 16 teams and two brackets, this four day tournament will be must watch. NCAA Tournament teams, dazzling freshman and of course, fresh uniforms. Let’s take a look at both brackets. First, we’ll focus on the Victory Bracket. Here’s what you need to know.

First Round Match-Ups:

Portland vs UNC – Thursday, November 23rd 2:30 PM EST

Arkansas vs Oklahoma – Thursday, November 23rd 5 PM EST

UConn vs Oregon – Thursday, November 23rd 9 PM EST

DePaul vs Michigan State – Thursday, November 23rd 11:30 PM EST

What to Look For:

UConn’s First Real Test

Connecticut comes into this without a real test in the first week and a half into the season. The Huskies have won the games they were supposed to, but not in a convincing fashion. Their first test will be against an Oregon team that is not nearly the team they were last year, but still pose a challenge. For one, though it’s not officially a home game, it will be played in Portland. The match-up here will be UConn’s Jalen Brown versus Oregon’s Troy Brown. Jalen Brown was the leading scorer for the Huskies last season. He will need a big game for UConn to pull out a win.

Potential NCAA Tournament Rematch

Ask Roy Williams and North Carolina how tenacious Arkansas’ defense is. The Tar Heels got all they could handle from the Razorbacks last season in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and just barely survived. Luckily for UNC, they would have Joel Berry, who returned last week from a hand injury, to help handle some of this Arkansas pressure. You can’t overlook Oklahoma, but you can bet Arkansas is chomping at the bit for revenge.

Joel Berry’s Health

Going off the previous point, Joel Berry’s health will determine if UNC can advance, or win, the Victory Bracket. Berry is the nucleus for the Tar Heels. Whether UNC plays Arkansas or Oklahoma, Berry will need to at or at least near full health. We mentioned the problems Arkansas can cause, but the other option is a match up with Oklahoma’s star freshman, Trae Young. Averaging 18.5 points and 11.5 assists in two games, Young would be the type of match up a senior leader needs to take on.

Michigan State’s Bounce Back

The Spartans stock might have dropped some after the loss to Duke, but no one is writing them off as championship contenders yet. Nonetheless, Tom Izzo and company need a few strong non-conference wins to add to their resume and this is the time to do it. Michigan State has arguably the two best players in the entire Victory bracket in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson. Three wins in the PK80 will go a long way to forgetting the loss to Duke.

Meet the Diaper Dandies

The Victory bracket has multiple one-and-done caliber players, as well as others who will have sustainable collegiate careers. Get to know the names Trae Young (Oklahoma), Jaren Jackson (Michigan State) and Troy Brown (Oregon). Young and Brown are the leading scorers for their teams on the young season, and Jackson solidified his status as a highly touted prospect by scoring 19 points in 24 minutes against Duke in the Champions Classic. Don’t be surprised to hear all three players’ names called in next Spring’s NBA Draft.


Best Championship Game: North Carolina vs Michigan State

The defending National Champs versus a popular pick to be this year’s National Champion. Michigan State is definitely the favorite in this bracket, but they showed weaknesses against Duke. They showed they can be turned over and their zone offense is suspect. Arkansas and their defense could cause the Spartans fits, but UNC is the best match up 1 through 5. Michigan State has the advantage inside and more depth than the Tar Heels, but UNC has the edge at point guard. Joel Berry is better than both Casius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn.

This game, along with the PK80 as a whole, will go a long way to telling us how good UNC can be this year. Will Joel Berry get any support? Is Luke Maye’s 23 PPG in two games legit or just stat padding against low level teams? This is a great early season test for Roy Williams and company.