Hur­ley im­pressed af­ter watch­ing Celtics, UConn women prac­tices

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS - By David Borges

STORRS — There may be only one thing col­lege bas­ket­ball coaches love to do more than coach­ing their own team in games and prac­tices.

Watch­ing other teams prac­tice.

Dan Hur­ley had a chance to sit in on a cou­ple of other teams’ prac­tices this past week, and they are pro­grams who’ve had some pretty good suc­cess over the years: the Bos­ton Celtics and the UConn women’s bas­ket­ball team.

Ev­ery year, Hur­ley, in his first sea­son as UConn men’s coach, tries to get to at least one prac­tice by the Celtics, as well as the New York Knicks and Brook­lyn Nets. “Pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment,” he calls it.

Hur­ley got to watch Celtics coach Brad Stevens in ac­tion ear­lier this week, and came away im­pressed.

“They don’t have any bad play­ers,” he noted Fri­day, shortly be­fore UConn’s First Night fes­tiv­i­ties at Gam­pel Pav­il­ion. “They don’t turn the ball over. They al­ways get a good shot. The closer they get to the bas­ket, the more they slow down so they can read the de­fense. They un­der­stand how to use screens, they talk on de­fense. It’s ob­vi­ously a well-struc­tured prac­tice, in terms of what they’re try­ing to build up to.”

Hur­ley paused for a mo­ment, then added: “It’s also a lit­tle bit of a kick in the stom­ach. You see them, then come back and we can’t do the three-man weave drill.”

In truth, Hur­ley has been happy with the way his team has been de­vel­op­ing since the Huskies’ first

prac­tice two weeks ago, when the coach kept the team on the floor about 20 min­utes longer than ex­pected when it couldn’t suf­fi­ciently run the afore­men­tioned three-man weave drill.

“These guys are work­ing hard,” Hur­ley said. “They’ve done ev­ery­thing we’ve asked them to do. They’ve adapted to a new style, and just kind of learn­ing dif­fer­ent de­fen­sive con­cepts. We look a lot dif­fer­ent right now. The de­fen­sive ro­ta­tions, just the in­ten­sity and com­pet­i­tive­ness they’re play­ing at. I think they un­der­stand how hard they have to com­pete ... and that’s a good thing.”

In the mid­dle of this past week, shortly be­fore head­ing out for re­cruit­ing, Hur­ley and a cou­ple of his as­sis­tants sat in on one of Geno Aueriemma’s prac­tices, in the ad­ja­cent gym at the Werth Fam­ily Cham­pi­ons Cen­ter.

“I”ve seen Geno at clinics, but that was the first time I got to watch his team,” he re­ported. “The pro­fes­sion­al­ism, the un­der­stand­ing of how they want to play, the cham­pi­onship cul­ture oozes out as you’re watch­ing. It’s like watch­ing a well-oiled op­er­a­tion.”

Auriemma said the one thing he hopes peo­ple no­tice in his prac­tices is “how con­sis­tent we are with our ef­fort and how it never varies.”

“Coaches love to go watch other coaches prac­tice — whether it’s high school, col­lege, pros, it doesn’t mat­ter,” Auriemma added. “When coaches have any free time, they like to go watch other peo­ple prac­tice. As soon as some­body’s out of a job in the bas­ket­ball world, the first thing they do is get on a plane and go ev­ery­where to watch prac­tice. While they’re (em­ployed), they go, ‘I hate this, I hate travel, I hate prac­tice.’ They minute you’re not, you want to go see other peo­ple do things. Be­cause there’s this con­stant feel­ing like, ‘I want to know more than I know.’ ”

So there was Hur­ley this week, at prac­tices for a 17-time NBA cham­pion fran­chise and an 11-time NCAA women’s bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship pro­gram.

“That’s what good coaches do,” Auriemma added. “They pick up stuff from other coaches. That’s what I’ve done. That’s the world, man. If you’re not learn­ing all the time, you’re stand­ing still.”

RIM RATTLINGS: Af­ter ad­dress­ing the First Night crowd of about 6,000 fol­low­ing player in­tro­duc­tions, Auriemma for­mally in­tro­duced Hur­ley.

“Let’s go, UConn!” Hur­ley shouted af­ter tak­ing the mi­cro­phone. “I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be here, to be the leader of the men’s bas­ket­ball team at the most sto­ried bas­ket­ball univer­sity in the coun­try ... Just make sure you’re here in Novem­ber at the start, when we make that climb all the way back up.” ⏩ Kwintin Wil­liams daz­zled the First Night crowd with some ac­ro­batic slams in the dunk con­test. Olivia Nel­son-Ododa, a fresh­man on the women’s team, missed all three of her at­tempts, but still drew more cheers from the crowd than her op­po­nent, fresh­man Bren­dan Adams, who threw down a cou­ple of im­pres­sive jams.

“This is prob­a­bly Kwintin’s Su­per Bowl,” Hur­ley said be­fore the event. “This is like Game 7 of the NBA Fi­nals for Kwintin tonight.”

⏩ Prior to the fes­tiv­i­ties, Hur­ley praised the re­cent play of Sid Wil­son, Chris­tian Vi­tal, Jalen Adams and Al­terique Gil­bert.

“Sid has been tremen­dous the last cou­ple of prac­tices. He’s re­ally taken it up a notch. That’s a tal­ented guy who can bring a lot to the pro­gram. I like the ad­just­ments that Chris­tian’s been mak­ing — his shot se­lec­tion, his will­ing­ness to share the ball. He’s a guy that’s re­ally ma­tured. And I like Jalen’s ap­proach, and Al.”

⏩ Kas­soum Yakwe (foot) should be back to prac­tic­ing soon. He likely won’t play in the Huskies’ “se­cret scrim­mage” against Har­vard in a cou­ple of weeks, but Hur­ley be­lieves he’ll be good to go for UConn’s ex­hi­bi­tion opener on Nov. 2 against South­ern Con­necti­cut.

⏩ A pair of Class of 2019 big men, Akok Akok of Put­nam Sci­ence Academy and Qudus Wa­hab of Vir­ginia, were on their of­fi­cial vis­its on Fri­day night. Re­cent UConn com­mits Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight were also at First Night, as well as Richard Springs, a 6-foot-7, Class of 2021 power for­ward who is Bouknight’s team­mate at MacDuffie School.

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn’s Jalen Adams is greeted by fans as he is in­tro­duced dur­ing First Night fes­tiv­i­ties Fri­day.

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn men’s bas­ket­ball coach Dan Hur­ley is in­tro­duced dur­ing the an­nual First Night event Fri­day in Storrs.

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