Hurley taking his Huskies home
UConn coach brings program to Jersey for first time to face FSU
Dan Hurley believes it's important to appreciate life's journey.
Sometime before Saturday's game against No. 11 Florida State at the Prudential Center in Newark, the UConn coach and New Jersey native will reflect on his long climb.
"It's the place that means everything to me, so I'm going to take the time to appreciate the journey," Hurley said. "Probably during the anthem, I'll look around and be like, 'Wow, I'm coaching UConn.' Maybe 12 years ago I was coaching against a school in front of 200 people. "So, wow, pretty cool." It's expected to be an emotional homecoming for Hurley, who was born and raised in Jersey City, played basketball for his father at St. Anthony's High School, attended Seton Hall, and spent nine years coaching and teaching at St. Benedict's Preparatory School, less than a mile from Saturday's Never Forget Tribute Classic event.
A large contingent of Hurley's family and friends will be on hand.
"I don't get a chance to get back to Jersey City a whole lot, unless they've got some 6-11 kids," Hurley said. "There's not a whole lot of time to get to Jersey City and see family and friends. We're staying in a hotel in Jersey City. We're playing a couple
“I learned so many things there. I learned how to be a head coach. I learned how to run a huddle. I had no idea when I got there . ... I learned everything about coaching, practice planning, relationships.” DAN HURLEY, ON HIS FIRST HEAD COACHING JOB AT ST. BENEDICT'S (N.J.)
blocks down from where I coached high school ball. Jersey City and Newark are probably the two places that mean the most to me."
Hurley's roots are planted firmly in New Jersey. His parents, Bob Sr. and Chris, live there in a house with a view of the Statue of Liberty.
He remains in close contact with Rev. Edwin Leahy, the headmaster at St. Benedict's. He talks fondly about his experience there as a history teacher and basketball coach and the impact the job had on his life and career.
"I learned so many things there," Hurley said. "I learned how to be a head coach. I learned how to run a huddle. I had no idea when I got there. How to be a leader. How to run a team. I learned everything about coaching, practice planning, relationships.
"The headmaster of the school there is one of the great educators in New Jersey. He's like an institution — Father Ed Leahy. The school, just being in a community like that, it's such a great school. Really, Father Ed was an incredible mentor for me. He taught that my job is not only to win a lot of games but my job is to help raise kids. So that's always stuck with me."
In the classroom, Hurley taught World History II, covering from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution. Let's just say he had a better handle on teaching man-to-man defense than about Napoleon. He would check out Wikipedia before walking into class.
"Obviously, I had to learn it on the fly because I was a general studies major at Seton Hall," Hurley said. "I just love being around young people. I get energized by being around kids. ... Plus, you understand the vernacular what these kids are talking about nowadays. Otherwise, I'd be completely lost.
"... Those experiences, I'll never forget it. The closeness you develop, the relationships. Then the climb. Makes me appreciate every part of what this experience is like and kind of where I came from."
Not all his St. Benedict memories are fond ones.
The Never Forget Tribute Classic, which supports the educational aspirations of the children of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, presents an opportunity for Hurley to talk about his experience that sad day.
"I remember I was teaching World History II and looked out the window and you could see the smoke," Hurley said. "Being in Newark, you look out and you can see Manhattan there.
"Getting within probably about 10 minutes of seeing the smoke, just being called into the auditorium and then just the chaos of what was happening on the way into the assembly. And then everyone got dismissed."
An emotional Hurley paused before continuing.
Hurley said he brought several international students home with him that day.
Paul Keating, a fireman and the brother of Hurley's friend Jeff, died after heading to the World Trade Center after the first plane crash.
"We all have people related to us that perished that day," Hurley said. "Everyone was affected by it and still affected by it. Jeff Keating was like a friend of me and my brother's. His brother was a fireman . ... He ended up dying that day as a hero. There's so many of those types of stories, you just get a chill. You'll get a chill as you get to Saturday.
"The emotion is good, I think. Laughing, being sad, happy. Running the emotional gamut, I think is a good thing. I'm no stoic." [email protected]day.com
UConn coach Dan Hurley locks arms with his players during the national anthem prior to Sunday’s game against Arizona at the XL Center in Hartford. Hurley, a New Jersey native, will bring his Huskies to the Garden State for the first time today to face No. 11 Florida State at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
UConn coach Dan Hurley yells from the sideline during the second half of a game against UMass Lowell back on Nov. 27 in Storrs. Hurley returns to New Jersy today to lead the Huskies against Florida State.