Why Dan Hurley Makes Sense for Pitt (And Why Pitt Makes Sense for Dan Hurley)

This post was written by a reader and not the staff of Cardiac HIll

There has been a lot of talk about Dan Hurley in the Pitt Basketball world recently, with Kevin Stallings' tenure at Pitt coming to an end after what felt like much longer than just two years.

Hurley has been connected to Pitt as a potential coaching candidate by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here at Cardiac Hill, Sporting News, and plenty more. But why? Here are three important reasons that Dan Hurley would make perfect sense as the next head coach of Pitt basketball:

  1. He's been successful. Hurley has had two head coaching opportunities in NCAA basketball. The first was with Wagner, where he inherited a team that had gone 5-26 in the Northeast Conference in 2009-2010, and in just his second season (2011-2012), he coached them to a 25-6 record. That's impressive, to say the least, and highlights Hurley's experience navigating quick turnarounds.

    He left Wagner for Rhode Island before the 2012-13 season, and has since turned URI into a force in the A-10 conference. Rhode Island will make the NCAA tournament this season, and Hurley has led the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since the 1990s. Not to mention that when the team that he inherited at Rhode Island was coming off of a 7-24 campaign in 2011-2012.

  2. He already recruits in prime ACC/Pitt territory. A quick look at Hurley's recruiting efforts during his time at URI is almost mouth-watering for a Pitt fan. In 2018, Hurley has two commits from Maryland, and one from Virginia; in 2017, his only commit was from Pennsylvania; in 2016, two of his recruits came from D.C. and Maryland; in 2015, one of his two recruits came from Maryland. Meanwhile, during that time, he recruited only four other players--one from Massachusetts, two from Louisiana, and one from New Jersey.

    As you can see, that's seven out of 11 total recruits going back to 2015 that fall into Pitt's recruiting area, and within ACC territory. You could even probably throw New Jersey into the mix, since Pitt will be eager to re-establish recruiting connections to New Jersey and New York moving forward. Hurley has taken these recruiting efforts to great heights during his time at Rhode Island--his 2018 recruiting class is currently ranked 28th in the country. Imagine what Hurley could do with existing recruiting connections in ACC territory and an actual ACC coaching job at Pitt.

  3. The "Narduzzi" effect. As a Pitt sports fan, you may remember just how bad things for Pitt football had gotten before Pat Narduzzi showed up. Pitt was in a perpetual state of six-win seasons and mediocre bowl games; the fans didn't care; Pitt was mostly an afterthought in the ACC. But Coach Narduzzi infused some real, palpable energy into the Pitt football program.

    How? He's a likable and engaging coach with media and fans. He engages on Twitter. He's always pumping out Pitt graphics, and retweeting potential recruiting targets. He even has the "Pat Signal" to announce when someone has committed to Pitt football. It's exciting! Fans have taken notice, and there is notably more energy around Pitt football than before Narduzzi showed up--even coming off a five-win season for the Panthers football team.

    Given concerns about how low Pitt basketball's popularity/fan interest has fallen and how low attendance has been, surely finding an exciting, young coach like Narduzzi will be a consideration. Cue Dan Hurley. He's more active on Twitter than any other potential coaching candidate that I've seen linked to Pitt so far.

    That may not seem like a big deal, but the fans love the interaction and the accountability. His tweet apologizing after Rhode Island's loss on senior day got over 800 likes, 100 retweets, and 50 replies. For a smaller school than Pitt with less of a basketball tradition, that's some major fan interaction. That's the kind of thing that makes students and local fans want to attend games, and invest in the team.

    For comparison, Kevin Stallings tweeted just a couple of times during his two years at Pitt (and has deleted his Twitter account since his firing).
Now, it seems that Hurley would be a popular choice--both among the media and the fans. Naturally, there's been a fair share of skepticism among fans who do not believe he would be interested in Pitt's coaching vacancy.

After all, he's reportedly interested in the potential coaching opportunity at UConn, and many believe that this rising star is destined for a job with a program that's in better shape than Pitt is right now. But should he be interested in coaching at Pitt? I think that he should--and here are three reasons why:
  1. He already recruits in ACC/Pitt territory! I do not think that this point can be overstated. Hurley has proven himself to be an excellent recruiter, even at low- and mid-major schools like Wagner and Rhode Island. Meanwhile, he's drawing the majority of his kids from the heart of where Pitt needs to recruit to be successful.

    It stands to reason that he could take his recruiting talents and existing connections in ACC territory to the next level at a school like Pitt, with a bigger name, an ACC presence, and greater available resources. Compared with a job like UConn, which recruits primarily in the northeast (formerly Big East territory), this could be a major advantage for Pitt.

  2. Kids that are going to college now grew up with Pitt as a powerhouse college basketball team. We all know about Pitt's former glory in college basketball under Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon. We're still just a few years removed from those days, even if they feel like a distant memory at this point. Because of this, many of the kids that are looking to play college ball right now grew up watching Pitt as a major force in college basketball.

    It's likely that a lot of these kids view Pitt as a big-name program that's fallen on hard times (which it is). Sure, Pitt is not the most attractive job in 2018. It can't be easy to sell a team that just went 0-19 in conference play. But Pitt's not-so-long-ago program prestige and its regard among the generation that is currently being recruited is a definite positive. And I feel certain that Hurley won't be afraid of the challenge because...

  3. He's no stranger to inheriting bad basketball teams. Hurley has had two head coaching jobs so far--Wagner and Rhode Island. He inherited Wagner as they came off of a 5-26 season, and he took over at Rhode Island coming off of a 7-24 season. Clearly, Hurley is not opposed to taking over a team that's in bad shape.

    Expectations for Pitt have fallen off the map over the past few seasons, but they are not far removed from being a perennial NCAA tournament participant. That has the appeal of allowing Hurley to take over a legacy college basketball program, while also having the leeway to run his program without pressure of living up to last year's expectations.
At the end of the day, this is all purely academic. Athletic Director Heather Lyke is making her first hiring of a revenue-sport coach during her tenure at Pitt, and she will surely take great care to make sure that her hire is the best possible fit. And given the timing and circumstance surrounding the coaching search, hiring him may not be possible. In my opinion, though, no coaching search can be considered complete without a serious look at Hurley.