Report: Lakers targeting UConn's Dan Hurley for head coaching job

Dan Hurley could be heading to the NBA.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Hurley as the team’s next coach. UConn has won back-to-back NCAA titles under Hurley over the last two seasons. The Lakers are looking for a coach to replace Darvin Ham after getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets this spring.

Wojnarowski reported later Thursday that Hurley was traveling to Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers on Friday to "dig into what a Hurley-Laker partnership would look like." The team reportedly hopes to have a deal done over the weekend.

Former Duke and NBA player J.J. Redick had been seen as the frontrunner for the Lakers job in recent days. But the Lakers are reportedly preparing to offer Hurley a “massive” contract for him to come to the NBA.

Hurley, 51, would take over a team that's looking for one more push to the Finals with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. After winning the 2020 NBA Finals, the Lakers have lost twice in the first round of the playoffs and missed the postseason in 2022. In Ham’s first season in 2022-23, the Lakers got the No. 7 seed and advanced to the Western Conference finals before getting swept by the Nuggets.

James, who turns 40 in December, has a player option on his contract for the 2024-25 season that needs to be picked up by June 29. On the assumption that it’s picked up, James and Davis will make a combined $90 million next season. But James could also opt out and negotiate a new deal with the Lakers.

There’s limited financial and roster flexibility for the Lakers beyond James and Davis, too. The team does have its 2024 first-round pick at No. 17 after the Pelicans opted to gamble on the Lakers’ roster and take L.A.'s 2025 first-round pick as part of the deal for Davis. With that pick, the team’s 2029 first-round pick and other players on the roster, Los Angeles could be in the market to upgrade for a No. 3 player alongside its star duo.

However, a move for another top-tier player could significantly hurt the team’s depth and force the Lakers to rely on minimum-salary players for a large portion of the roster. Just ask the Phoenix Suns how that went this season. The Suns were bounced in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first season with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal all on the same team.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08:  Head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates Connecticut Huskies winning their six championship after the National College Basketball Championship game against the Purdue Boilermakers at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
UConn has won back-to-back NCAA tournaments under coach Dan Hurley. Could he be the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers? (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Hurley has won nearly 300 games across 14 seasons as a head coach at the top level of men’s college basketball. After two seasons at Wagner, Hurley took over at Rhode Island. He turned the Rams into a 23-win team in his third season after Rhode Island went 8-21 in Year 1.

After taking the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2017 and 2018, Hurley was hired at UConn. The Huskies were a mess when he arrived. UConn had finished under .500 in each of the previous two seasons and had made just one NCAA tournament appearance since winning the national title in 2014.

UConn was 16-17 in Hurley’s first season before winning 19 games in Year 2 before the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended the college basketball season. Since then, UConn has made the NCAA tournament four straight times and UConn has become the prominent program in men’s college basketball.

The Huskies have obliterated their opponents in each of the past two NCAA tournaments. In 2023, UConn beat every team it played in the tournament by at least 13 points on the way to a national title win over San Diego State.

UConn was even better in 2023-24. The Huskies lost just three games all season and beat their NCAA tournament opponents by an even wider margin. UConn won each of its six tournament games by at least 14 points. The Huskies beat Alabama 86-72 in the Final Four before beating Purdue 75-60 in the national title game.

If Hurley heads to the NBA, he would be the first NCAA tournament-winning coach to go from the college ranks to the NBA since Billy Donovan left Florida for the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 2014-15 college basketball season. Florida won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007 under Donovan and made the Final Four in 2014.

Donovan is still in the league with the Chicago Bulls, though Chicago hasn’t been past the first round of the playoffs in his four years with the team. And he’s a relative outlier among coaches who have made the leap in both success and tenure.

The same year Donovan was hired by the Thunder, the Bulls hired Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State. The Bulls were 40 games under .500 in three-plus seasons under Hoiberg and he’s now the coach at Nebraska.

Since Donovan and Hoiberg, just one college coach has been hired by an NBA team. The Cleveland Cavaliers hired Michigan’s John Beilein in 2019, but he lasted just 54 games as the team’s head coach. Cleveland went 14-40 in his short time with the team.

Outside of Donovan, the most successful NBA coach to make the leap from the college ranks in modern history is Boston Celtics executive Brad Stevens. After back-to-back Final Fours at Butler in 2010 and 2011, Stevens was hired by the Boston Celtics as the team’s head coach in 2013.

Over eight seasons with the Celtics, Stevens was 354-282 as head coach, and Boston twice won more than 50 games in that span. He moved into the front office after the 2020-21 season and is currently the Celtics’ president of basketball operations.