Uconn's coaching vacancy and its impact on the SEC

Danny Hurley is rumored to be offered by the Los Angeles Lakers to be their next head coach. If he bolts for the NBA, a prime opening with the UConn Huskies becomes available at the college level. In this article, I share my thoughts on some of the top coaches that could make the leap from the SEC to UConn if offered the job.
Mar 21, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Auburn Tigers coach Bruce Pearl at a press conference at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Auburn Tigers coach Bruce Pearl at a press conference at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UConn Men’s Basketball head coach Danny Hurley is coming off of back-to-back national championships after only four seasons at the helm for the Huskies. Hurley just came off his most impressive coaching year to-date leading the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament as the number one seed and a 37-3 record overall.

With this kind of success comes attention. And that attention is currently on the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA who are rumored to be making Danny Hurley an offer that will be tough to refuse. With that offer of course comes an opening at UConn who is one of the more storied programs in NCAA Basketball history.

What is the history of UConn Basketball?

Much of that history comes from their time under former head coach Jim Calhoun who led the Huskies to 18 NCAA Tournament appearances in his 26 years at UConn. This includes three NCAA championship. This combined with Hurley’s two gives the Huskies five all-time. Five is more than any other SEC school besides the Kentucky Wildcats.

With that being said, rumors are swirling if Hurley indeed takes the head coaching position with the Los Angeles Lakers as to who will replace him at UConn. With the success of the SEC as a league lately and its head coaching prestige seemingly on the rise as a conference overall, speculating is starting to swirl on whether or not any coaches will exit.

Who are some SEC coaches to watch for that could leave for UConn?

Bruce Pearl (Auburn Tigers)

Pearl is going into the 2024-2025 season with what could be his best team yet for the Auburn Tigers. Despite this, his ties to the northeast make him a viable option for the Huskies should they need a replacement for Hurley.

Pearl is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and attended Boston College University.

Pearl has an impressive resume going 145-61 in his six years with the Tennessee Volunteers, and is 214-119 so far in his 10 seasons on the Plains for the Tigers.

Mark Byington (Vanderbilt Commodores)

Byington just took his first power six job in college basketball for the Vanderbilt Commodores this past offseason after leading James Madison University to a 32-4 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2023 which was the schools’ first in 12 years.

Byington’s success in rebuilding the Dukes into a Sun Belt Conference powerhouse will not go unnoticed if the Huskies are in need.

Nate Oats (Alabama Crimson Tide)

Oats just led the Crimson Tide to the first Final Four in the teams’ history. Given the expectations at UConn, this would be a difficult name for them to pass on at least interviewing.

Not only has Oats turned the Alabama Crimson Tide into a contender in college basketball, but he did the same at his previous stop at the University of Buffalo leading the Bulls to three NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons, including a 32-4 season in 2019 which catapulted him to the job at Alabama.

Oats’ overall coaching record is 213-97.

Lamont Paris (South Carolina Gamecocks)

Paris just completed his second season in Columbia as the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. The team was expected to finish by many near the bottom of the SEC, but instead finished fifth in the conference with a record of 13-5 in league play and 26-8 overall. Paris led the Gamecocks to their first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years.

How much does Danny Hurley make at UConn?

While records are one thing, salary is also to note here. Danny Hurley's contract is $5.25 million annually as the head coach of the UConn Huskies. Currently, Bruce Pearl is the only coach mentioned that makes more at $5.6 million annually per UGA Wire.

What are the reasons Danny Hurley could take the job with the Los Angeles Lakers?

One of the main reasons is that Hurley would have NBA star Lebron James. Although many fans consider James to be on the back side of his career and a "complainer," his numbers speak for themselves. James is a 20-time NBA all star and average 25.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game in 2023.

Beyond this is the general prestige the job of the Lakers comes with. The Lakers are one of those teams in sports that is arguably just hard to pass up simply because of their national brand- similar to the New York Yankees in baseball or the Dallas Cowboys in football.

Current Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is the owner and president of the Lakers after taking the organization over after her father, the late Jerry Buss.

Who are some potential replacements for Danny Hurley outside of the SEC?

One of the obvious choices is Danny Hurley's brother, Bobby Hurley. Bobby is currently the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils. However, after a strong 23-13 season in 2022-2023, the Sun Devils took a dip going only 14-18 this past season. So while the Hurley name carries weight, do not look for it to carry that much for a team like the Huskies that has expectations way higher than a losing record, let alone 23-13.

While there are other names and possibilities, many of the best are in the SEC right now simply because of the recent success of the conference. If Hurley bolts, many fingers across the league will be crossed in the coming days.