The most prolific coach in recent college basketball history could soon make the jump to the NBA. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday morning that the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting UConn’s Dan Hurley to fill their current coaching vacancy.

Hurley, who has coached the Huskies since 2018, has seen historic success during his short tenure at the University. After completing a short rebuild, he led the team to back-to-back national championships in 2023 and 2024, becoming the first since former Florida coach Billy Donovan to do so. After demonstrating a superior basketball IQ and rapid adaptation to a changing NIL-driven landscape, he has garnered attention and respect from the entire basketball world.

If he decides to take his talents to the pros, Hurley will join a short list of college coaches who went on to run an NBA squad; from there, he would hope to be a part of an even shorter list who saw success in the league. Of the eight coaches who went from the NCAA to the NBA, it can really only be said that two of them were “successful.”

Following the titles in Gainesville, Donovan joined the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015 where he coached for five seasons, boasting a win percentage just north of 60% and a playoff berth in each season. He has since served as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, where he has experienced a less memorable tenure, leading the Bulls to just a lone playoff appearance in 2022 and a win percentage under 50% in 3 of 4 seasons since taking over.

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More notably, Brad Stevens followed up his Cinderella seasons at Butler and traveled to Boston, where he took over the Celtics’ coaching staff in 2013. He turned the Celtics back into an NBA powerhouse, leading them to the playoffs each year beyond his first season. Following the 2020-21 season, Stevens chose to step down as head coach and has since served as the president of basketball operations for the team.

While Hurley has transformed the UConn basketball program and installed a high level of play, outstanding work ethic and sense of comradery at the college level, history questions whether this effect will translate over to basketball’s biggest stage.  The ability to teach, coach, and lead 18-year-olds who are playing because they love the game of basketball is a very different world than having to control the emotions and personalities of NBA stars, grizzled veterans and young players looking to make a name for themselves.

Many fans would like to think that most NBA players are adaptable and will buy into a coach’s system and style. The reality, however, can be vastly different. NBA players have occasionally made a habit of playing as if they are above the staff around them.  Fans and insiders alike often complain about those who play for the names on the back of the jersey. It’s not completely unjustified to think in such a way.

In the NBA, players’ livelihoods are entirely dependent on what they do on the court; the meaning of team accomplishments can become diluted. Hurley may come to the same realization that many former college coaches have made in the league — they’re no longer in control.  

Hurley’s game plan and execution at UConn was reliant on outsmarting other teams. This is no knock on him or his teams at UConn, but taking a similar approach in professional basketball would be immensely difficult. The vast majority of players Hurley’s hypothetical Lakers would face on any given night in the NBA are better than any player he had to coach against during his tenure at Connecticut. 

If any coach can adapt to this challenge, it’s Hurley, who has come a long way since his days coaching high school ball. Still, it is going to take a lot more than Hurley simply drawing up the X’s and O’s; the players are going to need to buy in and execute them, which is unfortunately not guaranteed in the league’s current state.

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