UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley doesn’t hide his emotions very well on the sideline. If he’s angry, he’ll stomp his feet like a kid having a tantrum or yell so loud the entire arena can hear. When he’s excited, Hurley will hype up the crowd or go into the stands to help a player up. For him, it’s all part of the team-building process.
“A lot of opposing arenas are going to get some show this year,” Hurley joked. “When you’re first starting out and trying to build something, a mindset, a toughness and mentality, that’s how you have to coach your first year or two when you’re not quite as well-rounded in terms of having everything you need as a team. I’m going to have to will these guys through games, I’m going to have to coach every possession like it’s the end of the world.”
Once Hurley can get the players he needs and have them play the way he wants to, he’ll tone down the sideline antics a bit. But they won’t go away completely.
“Once we become a more well-rounded team with an overall better everything, you’re not going to see that maniacal, sideline stalker,” he said. “You’ll see it at times when we need it but you won’t see it possession in, possession out.”
Even if Hurley can come away with a win over Syracuse on Thursday night, it’ll be hard to top his other win at Madison Square Garden as a head coach. It came when he was still the head coach at St. Benedict’s Prep against Rice High School.
“I beat that guy when he was in high school,” Hurley said, motioning towards the banner of Kemba Walker hanging in the Werth Champions Center. “We beat Kemba his senior year. I had Tristan Thompson so I didn’t exactly have a weak team. We were both top-five in the country, so we beat them in a close game.
“Kemba was on that team, Kimani Young was an assistant coach, so my last time I was there as a coach I was able to get an all-timer here and I was able to beat Kimani. So it went well for me.”
The trademark of any Jim Boeheim-coached team is the 2-3 zone they employ ad nauseam on defense. Hurley said one of the keys to the game will be not only making threes, but making sure they get good looks from outside instead of trying to force it.
“We’re going to have to make threes. I don’t think we have a dominant big that we can go high low to consistently, so we’re going to have to make threes,” he said. “But we don’t want to be playing offense around the three point line, we’re going to have to gap the zone with the dribble. We’re hoping our small, small guards can find those cracks with the dribble, land in the paint and spray the ball around a bit.”
Hurley admitted going up against the Orange defense will be tough considering the Huskies have yet to see a zone this season. However, he doesn’t want to make it too much of a focus on the game plan.
“Playing against their zone is probably 30-35 percent of what the game is,” Hurley said. “There’s rebounding, getting stops and getting out on transition. Sometimes in the lead up you get stuck so much on how we’re going to score against the zone, there’s other things we have to do well. “
UConn should be at full-strength going into New York on Thursday. Isaiah Whaley participated in live parts of practice and will be available, according to Hurley. Kassoum Yakwe and Tarin Smith, both of whom were dealing with ailments, are expected to play without any restrictions.