UConn’s Dan Hurley offers most powerful statement yet that he will not be Kentucky’s coach

UConn’s Dan Hurley — fresh off winning back-to-back NCAA titles — made it clear Thursday afternoon that he would not be the next men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.

Appearing on “The Jim Rome Show” three days after leading the Huskies to a second consecutive national championship, Hurley was asked by Rome if there was a salary number that could “get your attention” and lead him to take the UK job opening this offseason.

“No,” Hurley replied. “I think being who you say you are at your core — I know how much UConn and the state of Connecticut and the university, how much they value me and my staff and the program staying where they are. I know all those things are in place for us to press for the three-peat and show people who you are. …

“Once you make a certain amount of money, it doesn’t make that much of a difference in your life. I couldn’t be happier than I am here and knowing that the people that are — with the portal, we’re going to have to be strategic there. We’ve got some outstanding recruits coming in, we’re going to return some guys that are going to help us keep it where we are. I’m going to be here going for a three-peat.”

Kentucky’s interest around Hurley — already the top choice among a vocal segment of the UK fan base — intensified Thursday following the announcement by Baylor’s Scott Drew that he was removing himself from consideration for the Wildcats’ head coaching job.

The position opened up Tuesday with the resignation of John Calipari, who stepped down after 15 seasons with the Wildcats to take over as head coach at SEC rival Arkansas.

Calipari was introduced as the Razorbacks’ new head coach Wednesday evening.

On Monday night, UConn became the first team since Florida in 2006 and ’07 to repeat as national champions. The Huskies have won all 12 of their NCAA Tournament games over the past two years by double digits, and they are expected to start the 2024-25 season as one of the nation’s top-ranked teams.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander also reported Thursday afternoon that there is a “0 percent chance” Hurley will leave UConn for Kentucky and that the 51-year-old coach is expected to receive a “big pay bump” this offseason.

UK’s initial search for a new leader has centered on three names: Drew, Hurley and Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, who led Florida to those back-to-back titles in 2006 and ’07 and has spent the past nine seasons coaching in the NBA.

Now, that spotlight will shine brightly on Donovan, who was an assistant at Kentucky for five years under Rick Pitino before taking the Marshall head coaching job at age 28, later spending 19 seasons at Florida and then moving on to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015.

Donovan has already turned down UK twice in his career. The Cats hired Billy Gillispie in 2007 and Calipari in 2009, with athletics director Mitch Barnhart pursuing Donovan in both instances.

The 58-year-old coach might be more likely to accept the job this time around, however, though he is not expected to engage in talks with UK until the Chicago Bulls’ season is finished. The Bulls have qualified for the NBA’s Play-In Tournament, so they will be playing until at least Wednesday.

Barnhart will now either hold off on additional offers until he can have formal discussions with Donovan or go further down his list of candidates to fill the position as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Drew is staying put at Baylor, and Hurley isn’t leaving UConn.

That much is now clear.

“You’re preparing for the three-peat here. You’re doing everything you can,” Hurley said on Rome’s show Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, we’re going to lose a lot of players from this year’s team — and rightfully so. I don’t care what the talking heads say, but this is historically one of the best teams of the last 20-25 years, 30 years. But If I was going anywhere from here, the one thing I’d be doing right now is hiding. I wouldn’t be doing your show. I wouldn’t be doing anything. My heart is here. What we’ve created here is special. We have all the resources in place to try to fend off everyone that’s coming for where we are right now.

“So yeah, it’s flattering to have your name mentioned. It’s a byproduct of the success we’ve had, but if I had designs to listen to any other schools, I’d be in hiding right now. Not doing media.”

Herald-Leader staff writer Jon Hale contributed to this report.