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Highlights from Dan Hurley’s interview with Jon Rothstein

Hurley: “We’re right in line with where we hope to be. It’s part of the plan.”

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Jon Rothstein is teased in the college basketball universe as being almost a caricature of himself. Whether it’s justified or not is a topic for another day. Beneath it all, he’s a a very successful brand that always seems to go out of his way to dole out praise for UConn men’s basketball.

On Rothstein’s latest episode of his College Hoops Today podcast, he welcomed head coach Dan Hurley to the show. During their 36-minute chat — which can be found here — the two take a dive into Hurley’s psyche, the Big East, and a brief rundown of some player statuses. Here are the interview highlights:

Coach Hurley’s pandemic hobbies

“I’ve just tried to lean on my daily routine. Exercise, prayer, meditation. A lot more family time, which is something you sacrifice so much of during a season. Taking a walk at night with Andrea and the boys is probably the only new thing.”

The program’s trajectory

“Right in line where we hope to be. It’s part of the plan.”

The toughest part of rebuilding a program

“Enjoying the small wins during the process. They went from winning national champs to three straight losing seasons. That’s unheard of for one of the great brands and a blue-blood level program in college basketball. The overtime losses were excruciating, but part of the rebuilding process and signs of tremendous growth. But UConn is judged by championships and guys in the draft, so it didn’t feel that way.”

Being compared to his brother, Bobby Hurley (Arizona State men’s basketball coach)

“In the house I grew up in, and your brother being one of the best college point guards ever and the number seven pick in the draft, you develop thick skin and comparisons don’t bother you. I’ve dealt with them my whole career.”

James Bouknight making ‘the jump’

“He was one of the best freshman guards in the country to end the year. He has a chance to establish himself as one of the best guards in the country next year. He mixes in splash plays with efficiency. And he’s a great teammate that’s all about winning. He’s on a mission to bring UConn back to the level people expect of us.”

The projected impact of Andre Jackson

“He’s so unique. He’s the most athletic player I’ve ever coached in terms of speed, quickness, and playing explosively above the rim. His greatest asset is as a playmaker, getting into passing lanes, getting out in transition, or as a facilitator. That’s what makes him special. To be 6’7, get into the paint, and not only finish at the rim but see over and around the defense and take advantage of help. He’s going to have a similar impact as James. Maybe not scoring numbers, but a guy who stuffs the statsheet.”

What to expect from RJ Cole

“A mature player. He doesn’t have many holes. Him and Jalen are easy to play with. They’re like good quarterbacks in the NFL - they get the ball out in time, make quick decisions. Both of them are instinctual offensive players. If you’re a big guy or wing scorer, they’ll get the ball to you on time. I just need them to grow at the defensive end.”

Excitement over playing against Big East competition

“They take on a completely different level of intensity. The anticipation of playing in the Big East, it can’t get here soon enough. The double-overtime losses last season were a preview for what those games will be like. It can’t come soon enough.”

Injury update on Tyler Polley

“He’s a diligent worker and his playing style isn’t as affected as someone who relies on going east-west. We expect him to be ready to go for the opener and have a big year by playing a couple of spots.”

Recovery timeframe for Akok Akok

“We’re being cautious with Akok. He’s an NBA first-round prospect. We’re taking cues from how other athletes have recovered: we’re watching Kevin Durant, CJ Miles, and doing what’s in his best interest. We will not let him get anywhere close to the court until we’re comfortable that he’s feeling incredibly great.”

UConn’s deep frontcourt going into next season

“There’s more competition for minutes in a program that is producing results. It spurs growth. That’s healthy and where you need to be as a program. Across the board as a roster, we’re going to start to resemble UConn more with what we put on the court”

His meteoric rise through the coaching ranks

“As horrible as this time is, it does become an opportunity to pause and be grateful for the many blessings we have in our life. We find the true meaning and purpose of our work, and that’s to serve young people. What makes the job great are the bonds between player and coach. The fire you go through where the relationships are forged. The growth together as you become better people and a stronger team. That’s not lost on me. I’m a relentless competitor, I love being in the fire. But I also do love the time away from the game I get to have with my wife, my sons, and the people that I love.”