Hall of Fame event brings UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley back to early days with iconic father

When UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley pulled into the Basketball Hall of Fame parking lot on Friday prepared to speak with his father, hall of fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., during the Hall’s “Hoophall Hangouts” event, the gravity of the moment didn’t hit him right away.

The Hall’s strip-mall style façade doesn’t necessarily scream basketball shrine.

But once he walked inside, a plethora of his momentous memories shared with his father and brother, Arizona State men’s basketball head coach Bobby Jr., came to the forefront of his mind.

There were the times he came as a kid. One Saturday the trio put up as many shots as they could on Center Court until Bob Sr.’s wrist couldn’t physically shoot again — and the Hall was closing for the day. Then Dan thought back to his father’s induction night, when he became just the third high school coach to be named a Hall of Famer.

On Friday, they took the court again. This time without Bobby Jr., who originally planned to attend virtually from Tempe, Arizona, but couldn’t make it.

“I’m so privileged to be in this Hall of Fame, that if they call up with any reason for me to drive up here, we come up gladly,” Hurley Sr. said. “It’s such a wonderful thing, something that you never thought would be attainable.”

Basketball flows through the Hurley veins. The “first family of basketball,” as event host Kyle Belanger stated, has a combined 77 years and counting of coaching experience at the high school and college level.

Dan and Bobby would go to their father’s games at St. Anthony High in Jersey City, New Jersey, when they were at the age to pick up the sport for themselves. Bob Sr. remembers once being in the locker room at halftime and hearing a buzz coming from the direction of the court.

Bobby was about 7 years-old and Dan about 5, and they were on the court shooting, playing one-on-one. When the St. Anthony team exited the locker room for the second half, what was once a neutral crowd had turned to St. Anthony’s side after watching the young Hurley brothers, both of whom went on to play Division I ball — Dan at Seton Hall and Bobby at Duke.

As the kids got older they began attending camps and working at some of their father’s. They worked as referees and scorekeepers during the winter to earn money to play in more camps. They didn’t know at the time that it was all preparation for their future careers.

“It was like continuing education. They were doing everything,” Bob Sr. said. “And then in the house there was always half a dozen coaches sitting around. ... They grew up and it was like osmosis.”

“In terms of basketball coaches,” Dan said following the event, “my dad is an icon.”

Hurley Sr. coached at St. Anthony’s for 39 years and won 26 state titles while doubling as a probation officer.

Dan didn’t handle being the son of an icon well when he was a teenager and in his 20s.

“It was just a comparison thing that made me crazy,” Dan said. “And when you get older and you’re not dumb anymore, then you’re just incredibly proud of your family and you’re proud of being a part of such a successful group of people. And then you realize that you are where you are because of them, in large part.”

Friday’s event brought them together to acknowledge that pride and share it with the dozens of children and families in attendance at the Hall of Fame’s Center Court.

They gave advice to young kids who asked questions like, “How do I go D-I?” and “What do you look at when you recruit players?”

Once that question-and-answer session concluded, the pair made their way over to the autograph table. They made conversation with everyone who came up and signed everything from old photos to sneakers and even the back of a phone case.

One UConn fan even brought a photo of Dan in his Seton Hall days as a player, and his face lit up. He signed it and then posed with it, “I want that photo,” he said.

After signing his name one last time, Bob Sr. stood up and grabbed the remaining stack of photos. He has a camp coming up for kids with disabilities and wanted to give some away then.

They each spent some time with the media before Dan turned to his father, his mother Christine, his sister Melissa and two of his nephews.

“Can we go upstairs and check out the museum?” Dan asked, almost like he was that kid playing on Center Court until it closed again.