Dan Hurley’s rejection of Lakers offer shouldn’t have been surprising

Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley reacts against the San Diego State Aztecs during the first half of the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at TD Garden on March 28, 2024 in Boston , Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

What shall we do now?

Dan Hurley said no to the Lakers on Monday, and should we really have been so surprised? An East Coast guy and the king of his campus after back-to-back national championships at Connecticut, Hurley decided not to step out of his comfort zone even with a six-year, $70 million contract offer on the table. Which was, of course, more than twice the annual average value of the six-year, $32.1 million contract extension he signed at UConn a year ago.

And UConn’s contract is rumored to be sweetened again soon, with a report that a six-year, $50 million deal is on the table. So maybe the Lakers did for Hurley what they did for the Clippers’ Ty Lue and Dallas’ Jason Kidd, both of whom received extensions from their current teams.

(As long as the Lakers are focused on getting more money from guys in their current organizations…well, where does the line form?)

Again, this shouldn’t be terribly surprising to those who don’t really believe in Laker exceptionalism.

Hurley refused to join an organization that, aside from a bubble championship, has declined in national stature over the past 13 years. The Lakers will hire their seventh coach since Phil Jackson left town, and in recent years they’ve had to fight their way out of the play-ins just to get into the playoff bracket.

This is not exceptional.

Hurley also decided not to move to a brand of basketball that, aside from 10-foot baskets and a 94-foot-long court, bears little resemblance to the college game in which he made his reputation. A shorter shot clock, a longer season with less practice time, more determined players more willing to take on challenges, and a big-city franchise with the media attention that comes with it are just some of the reasons why so many coaches leave college. Basketball in the NBA has been mediocre at best.

Seen from this angle, going for a triple at the college level is really tempting.

And ultimately, asking someone whose life, family, and career has been centered in the Northeast to uproot himself at 51, and not only go to the NBA, but do it at Los Angeles, might have just been too big. ask.

Or, as ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said during a SportsCenter segment Monday morning, it was “less about the Lakers and more about the Hurleys.” Greenberg compared the Hurleys to the family depicted in the CBS drama “Blue Bloods,” where the patriarch — Tom Selleck — brings the extended family together at the dinner table each episode.

(In this case, the patriarch would be Bob Hurley Sr., the legendary Jersey City high school coach, so does that make Dan Hurley the emotionally explosive son/cop played by Donnie Wahlberg? That character, by the way, is also known under the name Danny.)

Then again, if the Lakers had offered Hurley more than $100 million over six years, rather than $70 million, would that have been compelling enough? I’m still not sure.

Give Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka credit for at least aiming high, let alone keeping it a secret for as long as they did if ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s report was true, that Hurley was their first choice from the start.

But also realize that by aiming high and failing, they have narrowed their options. That eye-opening hire that would put the rest of the league on notice no longer exists. Meanwhile, this national reputation as the “dysfunctional Lakers” remains.

So we return to discussion of candidates JJ Redick and James Borrego, and maybe even former Villanova coach Jay Wright. His name has been popping up as a “stealth candidate” in recent days, likely in response to the question “What happens if Hurley says no?”

Wright, 62 and currently a studio analyst at CBS, won two national championships at Villanova and took his team to 16 NCAA tournaments in 21 seasons. He’s smoother and has experience in a big media market, Philadelphia, but there would be less potential for improvement with Wright than with Hurley.

And there remains this factor of the transition from college to professional. Larry Brown remains the only one to truly transcend it by winning the NCAA and NBA titles. In case you’re wondering, he’s 83 and already in the Hall of Fame, and I highly doubt he’ll be interested in getting back on the carousel. (Although there have been crazier ideas, I suppose. …)

Hurley, if nothing else, would have captured fans’ imaginations, and the anticipation Monday morning awaiting his decision only gave a glimpse of that.