Hurley: We’re on a Mission to Play in March

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, men's basketball coach Dan Hurley says his team is focused on success.

Coach Hurley in a mask surrounding by players in a gameday huddle

(Stephen Slade)

While he is a whirlwind of activity and emotion on the sidelines, Huskies men’s head coach Dan Hurley is generally soft-spoken off the court. As he prepares his team to return to play following a second pause in activity during the pandemic, he met Tuesday via Zoom with state reporters to answer questions about the challenges of this season and how he and his team are doing:

ON THE DISRUPTION OF THE SEASON: It’s hard to complain about the frustration of a college basketball season with respect to the real world problems that COVID has created medically, economically, what it’s done to families and people. So, with great respect to that, this is challenging try to keep a team engaged and prepared to play games. It doesn’t feel like much of a season right now. You don’t lose hope in it. You get frustrated, you see how challenging it’s going to be, but we knew this was coming. Not necessarily the positive test this week, but we knew that this was going to be filled with uncertainty. Over the course of the weekend or early next week we’ll embark on it again, start up that culture of intensity, and get ready to play the next game.

DELAY IN STARTING BIG EAST PLAY: You feel really bad for our fans. It’s such an incredible fan base for the University, for the students. The atmosphere for this Friday’s game, whether that was at the XL or in Gampel, would have been as good an atmosphere as there is in college basketball. When you play a home game for UConn, that first game back in the Big East would have been just absolutely electrifying.

GETTING THROUGH THE SEASON: You never stop moving forward, whether you’re faced with whatever adversity it is or uncertainty. I think a lot of times uncertainty’s tougher than adversity. At least when you face adversity, you know your opponent and you can face it. I think athletes and coaches are tough-minded people. Yeah, the players are frustrated. The coaches are exasperated. Once we know when our first day [of full practice] is going to be back, then I think we’ll be in a lot better spirits.

KEEPING THE TEAM HEALTHY AND READY TO COMPETE: The level of play is going to be what it is this year. That’s not our biggest concern. It’s really just the health and welfare of the players and not putting them in a position where they’re at risk for an injury, because they’re going from a seven-day shutdown or a 10-day shutdown just a couple of weeks after having a 14-day shutdown. That’s something that we’re going to have to talk about internally here with myself, [athletic director] Dave Benedict, and our staff. I can tell you this — we’re going to take the absolute best care of our players with every decision that we make.

COMMUNICATING WITH THE TEAM: I think the key to my leadership — and what I try to direct and lead my staffs that have worked with me and the players — is I’ve always just been very honest and up front about where things are, and be very, very transparent with my truth-telling. Like I told the players earlier today: In the end, we’re going to be out of this and we’re going to be back to our business. Hopefully, we’ll have several days to prepare for our first Big East game in several years. All we’re going to be judged on is our performance and the end result and no one’s going to care that COVID buried us in November and December. Be mentally tough, do the best we can to stay in shape, do the best we can to stay sharp, because in the end when that ball goes up, we’re going to have to deliver. We’re on a mission to play in March and in the NCAA tournament. Whatever adversity we face, we’ve got to have enough success to get back in the tournament that UConn belongs in and that we’re striving to play in this year.