By Phil Chardis
UConn Athletic Communications
June 8, 2018
Dan Hurley doesn’t own a whistle.
Check that … the new UConn men’s basketball coach probably owns a whistle, but he certainly doesn’t know where it is.
Hurley, you see, has no use for a whistle because basketball coaches use a whistle to stop the action during practice and, if his first few UConn practices this week are any indication, the action never stops during a Hurley practice.
“We only have an hour during the summer, so we’re trying to get a lot in, get to know the players, set the tone, get them used to the pace,” Hurley explained.
So, then, practices in the fall -- when there is more time, more teaching to be done, more offense and defense to be installed, and the like – are more deliberate and run at a lower gear, right?
“Well, … not really,” said assistant coach Tom Moore, beginning his second year of Hurley practices. “Maybe a little, but not really. This is kind of how we practiced all last year (at Rhode Island).”
The NCAA did UConn a favor when it changed the summer practice rules to raise the allowable hours of practice to four per week, along with four of conditioning, for eight weeks. With a new coaching staff, the Huskies can use all the hours on the court they can get.
Hurley makes sure they don’t waste a minute of it.
His practices are perpetual motion. Everyone is constantly on the run – coaches, players, managers, staff. Everyone is engaged. One drill leads directly to the next drill, explained on the move, adjustments made on the move, corrections made on the move. Two balls moving at once, three, maybe four. Bigs on one end of the court, littles on the other, then the whole group together. There’s no stopping. The players have no choice but to be focused in and paying attention. Things are moving so fast that it comes down to paying attention or be left behind. And everything is a competition.
“I think he creates an environment that’s very competitive,” said assistant coach Kenya Hunter, beginning his first year working with Hurley. “And it’s good for our guys to see a new way … competing in every possession. It’s a lot of newness and instead of thinking, you’re just playing hard and getting guys to compete. It’s been fun to be involved with and to watch our guys get better.”
For the players, it’s an adjustment.
“Man, it’s intense, but it’s a good intensity,” guard Christian Vital said. “When practice ends, you feel like you accomplished something.”
The frenetic pace of a Hurley practice is only slightly more hectic then the pace of Hurley’s life since he took over the UConn program on March 22. Putting together a coaching staff, meeting and interviewing his players, appearances at donor events, Happy Hour With Coach Hurley, four days of the UConn Coaches Road Show – all while commuting each day from Rhode Island, his home until he can find the time to get his family moved to Connecticut.
But for Hurley, the top priority at the moment is his team. He has just 21 weeks to get ready for the 2018-19 season.
“The summer is the time when players improve their game,” Hurley said. “Once the season starts, you’re planning strategy, fine-tuning, getting ready for the games – but during the summer is when they improve and we have to make sure they know that.”
If not, they are learning fast.
“The kids have responded very well,” Moore said. “They want to get better and they want to be good. They want to represent UConn basketball the right way. I think all of them seem willing to sacrifice and work hard. We just keep trying to raise the bar – intensity, pace, communication.
“I know Coach will maximize all 32 hours (this summer) to get some familiarity with them, but it’s more important for the guys to get some familiarity with him and his coaching style.”
Uniquely, Hurley’s player development doesn’t all happen on the court or in the weight room. Friday marked the first session of the Hurley Book Club, which has the players, coaches, and staff read a chosen work and then discuss it. First book up: Joshua Medcalf’s “Chop Wood Carry Water, How To Fall In Love With The Process Of Becoming Great,” full of life lessons and inspirational lines. The idea is not to provide more homework, it’s not that formal, but to stimulate discussion, verbalize thoughts, get a better understanding of each other. Maybe that translates to better understanding on the court, maybe it doesn’t, but the positives go beyond basketball.
It’s been one week since summer practice arrived with all the subtlety of a tornado. And the Huskies did not need a whistle to tell them that a new era of UConn men’s basketball has arrived.
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