Arizona State's Bobby Hurley hopes to build with new additions, contract extension in hand
Arizona State's appearance in the NCAA Tournament helped whet Bobby Hurley's appetite for getting even further.
Watching his brother, Dan, coach Connecticut into the Final Four has fueled that fire even further. So while this season isn't totally in the rear view mirror yet, Hurley is already excited about the team's prospects next season.
Hurley, 51, just rounded out his eighth season heading the Sun Devils. His team went 23-13, marking the fourth 20-win campaign and signifying a resurgence of sorts after two tough years in which the team was plagued by both injuries and COVID.
Just a few days after the season ended Hurley was granted a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Tempe through 2026. He spoke about that publicly for the first time in an informal press gathering at Desert Financial Arena on Tuesday.
Hurley was in Las Vegas last week to watch his brother's team in its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games.
"It has been special for me to be able track my brother and spend time with him and watch what he's doing," Hurley said. "It's been inspiring for me to see what he has done with that team and how far he has taken it. So proud of him and a joy just seeing that. It makes me hungrier as a coach to want to take more steps here to try and do something special."
Hurley's record as ASU's head coach is 141-113. The 23 wins this season equals his previous high recorded by the 2018-19 team. This was the team's third NCAA appearance in his tenure, although there would have been a fourth had the 2020 tournament not been canceled due to COVID.
He remains steadfast in his belief that a program that can routinely challenge for the Pac-12 title and make more frequent trips to the NCAAs can be built here.
And yes, he just plain enjoys living here too.
"I built a life here. I have a family here. My daughter graduated here, got a master's degree here. My son is on the team and loves it here. My wife and I love living here," he said. "I still believe this place could be exceptional. COVID stunted our growth and we took a couple of steps back and now we have taken steps forward and I intend on keeping taking steps forward. I believe in this place and believe it can be done here. When you believe it, then you're going to go after it 1,000% and that's what I'm going to do."
Unlike past seasons, Hurley should have a core of players in place, so there shouldn't be as massive of an overhaul to the roster as there has been in years past. Four players have hit the transfer portal, the latest being freshman Austin Nunez, who missed the last month with a concussion. The other key ones are starting guard D.J. Horne and reserve guard Jamiya Neal, although Hurley says he is having ongoing discussions with those players and their return is not out of the question.
Devan Cambridge has voiced his commitment to using his extra year of eligibility, and point guard Frankie Collins has put on social media messages he is hoping prompt others to join him here.
While Hurley hit the transfer portal lottery last year with the four starters he brought in, he is looking to upgrade the talent again this year all while "re-recruiting" his current players. It comes with the territory now, with the portal an option for those looking for more playing time or the big payday a good NIL deal can provide.
Hurley says that he has no hard feelings for those that might opt to leave. He is thankful they were here and helped elevate the program. The Sun Devils' most notable win came against their archrival Arizona 89-88 in Tucson. UA entered that game No. 7 in the country.
ASU won two games in the Pac-12 tournament, including a 77-72 upset of No. 3 seed USC that was the difference in the Sun Devils making March Madness and staying home for another year.
"You feel super appreciative for the journey and the season we had and you look at the blue blood traditional NCAA tournament teams that did not put together a season that enabled them to get into March Madness and play in the tournament," he said. "I like how the guys responded throughout the year with their backs to the wall and the adversity they had. We had some special moments as a team.
"That's what you hope for as a coach, that a group of people, you can bring them together and play for each other and play the right way. So it was a real honor to coach this group."
ASU posted an impressive 98-73 win over Nevada in the play-in game in Dayton, then dropped a 72-70 heart-breaker to Big 12 contender TCU in Denver. It was the Sun Devils' first NCAA appearance since 2019, something Hurley would like to make a more regular occurrence.
He sidestepped questions about whether or not the program can take the next step while playing in a facility that is 49 years old and in need of some upgrades. He only said it won't detract him from doing what he wants to do.
"That's the goal, to keep taking steps to put ourselves in position to have opportunities to go after a Pac 12 championships, go after NCAA tournament appearances," he said.
"The visibility of our program has increased due to what we did in Dayton. That was the one game people were watching that night. There are players that see our style of play and see how attractive that could be, how hard we play, how we defended, 98 points in that game. People watched our TCU game and it was a war and people recognized Big 12 was really good and we went toe to toe and controlled that game most of the way.
"When you're involved in games like that the profile of your program goes up a notch. We're hopeful that will translate to what we're doing as far as roster improvement."
The Sun Devils coach said getting a contract extension in place quickly should help. Players needed the stability of knowing he was here and it would have been hard to bring in others had he been on the last year of his deal.
He is hoping his team can get over the hump and make a deeper run, much like his brother, who is in his fifth season heading UConn.
"He had trouble winning the first round game for a couple of years. Now he's in the Final Four and so things like that are in play here. We have a core of players we're bringing back that are invested in this and want to see to work and I'm going to get to work with my staff. We're going to improve the roster and give ourselves a chance of advancing further next year," he said.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, core players invested in improvement