Winners and losers of Dan Hurley turning down Lakers: UConn can rejoice; Jeanie Buss, Rick Pitino take a loss



Dan Hurley will remain coach of the Connecticut Huskies. The Los Angeles Lakers failed to make him the franchise’s next coach after leading UConn to back-to-back national titles when Hurley declined the team’s reported six-year, $70 million offer, keeping him tied to Storrs, Connecticut, as he looks to join John Wooden as the only men’s college basketball coach to three-peat. (Wooden, by the way, seven-peated. Hurley has a ways to go there.)

The decision is a boon to the Big East and the best program within it — and on the other side, a crushing blow to the Lakers, who had reportedly been eyeing Hurley since starting its search in the wake of Darvin Ham’s ouster.

Below are the winners and losers from the fallout of Hurley’s L.A. stiff-arm and his choice to run it back with UConn.

Winner: UConn keeps their man

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The University of Connecticut, bar none, walks away today as the biggest winner of the ordeal. It went toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Lakers and successfully fended off the historically proud franchise to retain its coach. Hurley is negotiating a new deal with the school, but it’s unlikely the money is in the same ballpark as the deal he turned down. For UConn, that says a lot about the state of the program and the comfort he and his family have with where they’re at right now. — Boone

Loser: Jeanie Buss can’t get deal done 

This is at least the third time that Jeanie Buss has failed to secure her preferred coaching candidate. The 2012 pursuit of Phil Jackson was stymied by her brother, Jim Buss, who preferred Mike D’Antoni and technically controlled basketball operations at the time. The 2019 pursuit of Ty Lue was a much more direct representation of her shortcomings as an owner. The Lakers offered Lue, a former champion, only three years and $18 million to coach the team. He justifiably balked. When the Lakers landed Frank Vogel, they also committed to him for just three years. When he won the 2020 championship, he was rewarded with a one-year extension ten months later.

Obviously, a $70 million offer for UCpnn’s Hurley represents a significant jump in the sort of money the Lakers are willing to offer a coach, but yet again, it’s short of what the market dictated. The Pistons, a team with far less revenue to work with, paid Monty Williams more last offseason on a $78.5 million deal. Proven NBA champions like Lue, Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich are making even more than that on a per-year basis. Perhaps Hurley shouldn’t be paid as much as the best coaches in the NBA on merit, but if you’re going to lure a lifelong East Coast resident to California and away from his shot at a three-peat, you’d better come at him with a godfather offer. The Lakers didn’t. Once again, this team’s hesitance to spend on anything other than star players has come back to bite them. That’s a reflection on the owner. – Quinn

Winner: College basketball keeps its best coach

In an offseason in which college football national champion-winning coach Jim Harbaugh walked away to join the pros as coach of the L.A. Chargers, college basketball gets a boost in hanging on to its reigning, repeat title-winning coach. It would have been understandable had Hurley bounced — it’s LeBron James, it’s L.A., it’s the Lakers — but in staying at UConn, the college hoops world keeps its best coach in the fold. Bonus: Hurley also happens to be the best quote in the game and a true wild-card who could at any point create a viral moment from the sideline. — Boone

Loser: College basketball teams still chasing UConn

Yes, yes, I know: I just listed college basketball a winner. But make no mistake: college basketball in general is absolutely a loser here. Losing Hurley might’ve leveled the playing field a bit for schools vying to win titles. With Hurley back, UConn for the foreseeable future will remain one of, if not the biggest, hurdles to doing so for other college basketball teams. This is a dynasty that might just be getting off the ground. Good luck, teams not named UConn. Good luck. — Boone

Winner: Whoever ultimately gets the Laker job

Suddenly, the optics of hiring a risky candidate like JJ Redick are a bit better. They’re no longer positioning him as a generational young coaching prospect as reports were before the Hurley flirtation. Now, the Lakers can at least say they tried to go the traditional route. That takes some pressure off of Redick, or whoever is ultimately hired, because the expectations won’t be nearly as high. It also likely doesn’t hurt that the Lakers have tipped their hands financially a bit. A $70 million offer for Hurley might have been a low-ball, but by the standard of most coaches, that’s a windfall. No other candidate we know of at this time is going to command such a salary, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll cheap out on their ultimate selection after throwing that much at Hurley. They won’t want to make it seem as though they’re settling, after all. – Quinn

Winner: Hurley’s bank account will get a boost  

Hurley signed a deal last year after leading UConn to a championship but he is once again in line to sign a new deal in the immediate future after repeating with the Huskies. Matt Norlander says he expects the new deal to topple the $8 million mark annually, which would make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. And turning down Kentucky and the Lakers in the same offseason likely guarantees UConn will smash the piggy bank open and do everything it can to get Hurley and his staff paid handsomely. Here’s more from ESPN: — Boone

Dan Hurley has turned down the Los Angeles Lakers’ six-year, $70 million offer and will return to chase a third straight national title at UConn, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Lakers would have made Hurley one of the NBA’s six highest-paid coaches. But before opening talks with the Lakers, Hurley already had an offer from UConn to become one of the highest-paid NCAA coaches, and those talks will continue, sources told Wojnarowski.

Loser: Rick Pitino still in Hurley’s shadow

There are several candidates who could’ve made runs at the next King of the Big East had Hurley hoofed it to L.A. — Shaheen Holloway, Shaka Smart, Sean Miller among them — but none were more qualified than Rick Pitino at St. John’s. Instead, Pitino and his Johnnies remain an afterthought not only in the Big East, but also in the northeast — where Providence and UConn remain the big dogs of the region in the conference. — Boone

Winner: Alex Karaban’s decision looks better

Despite a strong pre-draft experience that included a stellar showing at the NBA Draft Combine, Karaban, a two-time champion with UConn, opted earlier this month to return to school. Now he’ll do so with the same coach who once recruited him. It could’ve been a tad awkward had he came back only for his coach to bail, but he returns to school a projected future first-rounder with a coach whose belief in him has helped mold him from a sub-100 national recruit to a likely top-30 pick. That stability should help him as he looks to build off a career year and launch into the NBA. — Boone

Loser: Young Lakers need a leader

The theoretical benefit to hiring a coach like Hurley was that he could build a long-term infrastructure geared towards player-development. The odds of a first-time NBA coach competing for a championship off the bat are relatively low, but Hurley might’ve done wonders for players like Austin Reaves, Max Christie and Rui Hachimura, described in reporting as the youngsters the Lakers treat as core pieces. The coach they ultimately hire may well prove just as capable of helping them grow, but without having such a firm plan in place, it’s worth wondering if the Lakers, as a team, will be as committed to a long-term approach. Would a coach with a more traditional NBA background be more open to the idea of trading those young players to win now? Historically, the answer to that question is usually yes. We don’t have a firm grasp on the Lakers’ offseason plan beyond finding a coach, but this was a big missed opportunity for their younger players, specifically. – Quinn

Winner: Big East will be better

Fans of non-UConn teams in the Big East might disagree — but this is a win for the league as a whole. The sport in this era centers around big-name coaches due to excessive movement within the transfer portal and the one-and-done rule. Hurley at UConn will remain the face of the league — and of the sport — so long as he’s there. The attention he draws this season, and the reality that he just turned down the Los Angeles Lakers to continue coaching in the Big East, speaks volumes. — Boone

Loser: Big East referees will be getting an earful

Sideline antics from Hurley over the years has been one of the biggest sources of consternation from Big East referees. He constantly toes the line between appropriate and too aggressive, and having seen him coaching the Final Four, he is always chirping about something to officials. Pour one out for the zebras who might’ve thought they were done dealing with him. Here’s to many more technical fouls in the future. — Boone

Winner: Anthony Davis may get his choice

LeBron James has largely stayed out of this Lakers hire, according to most of the reporting. His agent, Rich Paul, told Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes that the Lakers should be thinking more about Anthony Davis anyway. Well, the reporting thus far indicates that Davis has a preferred choice, and it wasn’t Hurley. According to Marc Stein, his top pick would be James Borrego, who has head-coaching experience in Charlotte and Orlando and crossed over with Davis briefly in New Orleans. Borrego is the only candidate known to have interviewed multiple times in person with the team. Redick is the obvious pivot here, but Davis’ blessing would surely keep Borrego in the running. If the Lakers really are preparing to hand the team over to Davis, picking his preferred coach would appear to be a sensible move. – Quinn





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