Doubling down on the Storrs experience

Nov. 19—Andrew Hurley has been around the game of basketball his entire life.

But when he walked on to the UConn men's basketball team ahead of the 2020-21 season, he experienced something he never had before: playing for his dad, Huskies coach Dan Hurley.

"Going into it, I was thinking to myself that there were a lot of possibilities," the 6-foot-1 junior guard said. "What if the guys will look at you differently or just how the dynamic was going to be. But a lot of that cleared up when I was a freshman. My first day, he was just tearing everybody up. I was involved in that too. It makes it a lot easier when that happens."

Since then, the Hurleys have fostered their coach/player relationship all the while strengthening their father/son bond.

"Going on the journey with him is a pretty cool experience for both of us," Dan Hurley said.

Basketball is woven into Hurley's DNA. Besides his dad, who played at Seton Hall and is in his 13th season as a Division I coach and fifth at UConn, Hurley has multiple basketball influences in his family.

His grandfather Bob won over 1,000 games and 28 state titles as the coach of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey before being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. His uncle Bobby's number is retired at Duke, where he was an All-American and a two-time national champion. He's currently the men's coach at Arizona State.

"I think that everyone in my family that has been involved with basketball definitely has had a pretty big impact on me," Hurley said. "That's both on the court and off the court."

Hurley can't recall the first time he played basketball. He said his earliest memories in life are traveling with the boys team at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey, which his dad coached from 2001-2010.

While he knew from an early age he wanted to play, Hurley said he never felt pressure to pick up the game for himself.

"It was always pressure about how I played," Hurley added. "It wasn't really so much I didn't want to play and I wanted to try something else. It was pressure about my performance and how I played in a game and stuff like that."

Hurley spent his first two high school seasons at Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, Rhode Island. When his dad took the UConn job in 2018, the family moved to Glastonbury and Hurley transferred to East Catholic.

During his first season in Manchester, the Eagles went 27-1 and captured the Division I state championship.

Hurley credits two of his teammates that year — guards Joey Reilly and Jaylin Hunter — with helping him grow his game.

"Those guys helped me develop so much as a player," he said. "Playing behind them and practicing with them every day, seeing how hard they worked, seeing how they played and how they pushed each other. Those two guys I would said had the most impact on me on-court."

The following year, East Catholic was 23-1 and the third seed in the Division I state tournament. But before the Eagles' first tournament game, the CIAC canceled state tournaments following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides Reilly (Sacred Heart) and Hunter (Ohio), Hurley's high school teammates Matt Knowling (Yale) and Brody Limric (Central Connecticut State) all have gone on to play at the NCAA Division I level.

"It's definitely pretty cool," Hurley said. "It's really just a testament to East Catholic. It would've been a lot more difficult for everyone to get there if it wasn't for East Catholic and Coach (Luke) Reilly and all the time he puts into everybody."

After walking-on at UConn, Hurley had to transition from Coach Reilly to Coach Hurley.

"It's definitely pretty interesting," he said. "There's a really fine line between dad and coach. You have to pick your times when you can mess around. Obviously when you get out there, it's all business. It's all about getting better and it's about winning. That's where you kind of really have to draw the line and be ready to work and get done what you need to get done."

Dan Hurley has not shied away from giving his son an earful during practice.

"I'm probably not as tough on my son Andrew as my dad was on me and Bob," he said. "I'll go straight away with that. Although I did jump him, we had a really bad practice (Oct. 17) and I was giving it to everybody, and I got him too. But he's grown up a lot because he didn't tell my wife."

The younger Hurley rebuked his dad's accusation.

"That's ridiculous because I've never done that before," he said with a laugh.

Joking aside, Hurley said that there are plenty of times during the season where he and his dad can put the coach/player dynamic aside.

"We have pockets throughout the day where we kind of joke around," Hurley said. "Whether it be something that happened to me on the court or something off it, he'll make fun of me during practice. While he's yelling at me, he'll give me a little extra kick about something."

Dan Hurley said that having his son on the team helps him mentally refresh throughout the season.

"Obviously at this level of sport, you don't see your family a lot," he said. "For me on a personal level, game day shootaround for an intense, must-win game on the road, and you know it and your team knows it, to have your son around takes a little bit of the edge off. It helps you kind of relax."

Since Dan went from dad to coach, Andrew said one thing has changed: his evaluations of Andrew's performances.

"Obviously it's a lot different now, but before he was my coach, you'd have to ask him what his thoughts were on how you played and what you could do better," he said. "That was something you had to ask. But once you asked though, you had to be willing to listen."

Hurley has appeared in 13 games in his career with the Huskies, including their 86-50 win over UNC Wilmington on Friday. He scored his only points on a three-pointer as a freshman in the first round of the 2021 Big East tournament against DePaul.

But it's not his stats that he thinks about.

"It's been an unbelievable experience," Hurley said. "Just the relationships I've made, the improvements I've made. Whether it's my body, my game, confidence, whatever. There's just been so many improvements in my time at UConn."

Coach Hurley said he's proud of how Andrew has matured and grown as a player thus far in his career.

"He's a very smart kid and a smart player," he said. "He played at a great high school program at East Catholic. So, he helps us get prepared in terms of what he can bring to a practice."

In turn, Andrew is proud that his coach has recognized that growth.

"I feel like that's something that everybody, just from a player standpoint, wants to prove to a coach," he said. "Improvement or your maturing. But to prove that to my father, that's something that's incredibly special to me."

Incredibly special, and something he wouldn't change for anything in the world.

"I wouldn't want to be in any other situation than the one I'm in," Hurley said. "It's such an experience, and an incredibly rare one, to be able to do all of this with your father day in and day out. Go through the highs and the lows of a season together. That's something that I'm going to treasure to the day I die."

For coverage of UConn football and men's basketball as well as area high school and local youth sports, follow Adam Betz on Twitter: @AdBetz1, Facebook: Adam Betz — Sports Writer, and Instagram: @AdBetzJI.