Photo by Autumn Walter |CIGAR|
It’s said that all great things must come to an end, truer words have never been spoken when it comes to the Dan Hurley era at URI. It became official on Thursday morning that Hurley won’t be stomping up and down the court next season for the Rams, instead he will be the next head coach at The University of Connecticut down in Storrs.
It was a somber day on the Kingston campus last Thursday as the news broke, but this is not the end of URI basketball. It’s quite the opposite actually, it’s the beginning of era that will include banners in the Ryan Center and championships rings. All of this is achievable with the right choice for head coach. It’s a decision that will take two weeks to make and will have a lasting impact on the University and state of Rhode Island for years to come.
Before we look to the future, let’s go back to a time before selling out the Ryan Center, before Atlantic 10 championships and most importantly, before Hurley.
The year is 1999, URI is fresh off their first A-10 tournament championship and a NCAA Tournament berth. URI coach Jim Harrick has left for Athens to coach the University of Georgia and URI is tasked to find a new head coach to lead the Rams after three straight postseason berths, sound familiar?
It was announced that Jerry DeGregorio would take over the coaching reigns after two years as an assistant for the Rams. He joined Harrick’s staff after a successful 10-year career at the prep, junior college and collegiate ranks. Prior to coming to Rhode Island, DeGregorio spent four years as head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas High in New Britain, Connecticut, where his teams went 65-35. He also helped bring in Rhode Island’s 1998 recruiting class which was ranked among the tops in the nation.
Unfortunately, DeGregorio wasn’t able to repeat the success of Jim Harrick. DeGregorio went 12-48, the worst two-year stretch in school history. He resigned when the season finished after failing to reach the NCAA tournament.
The next hire for URI will be the most important decision for athletics in the University’s history.
The athletic director, Thorr Bjorn, spoke about the departure of Hurley and the search to find the next coach at a press conference last Thursday.
“We will continue to look for someone who will build upon what we have built here,” Bjorn said. “Our goals have not changed. We want to be the best team in the Atlantic 10. We want to get to a Final Four someday. That goal has not changed.”
Bjorn also went on to name David Cox, the current associate head coach as the only candidate at this point he’d say by name.
In my opinion as a student-journalist who has covered this team for the past two seasons, I’d have to say that the hire of David Cox would be the best option currently for the Rams. Cox is the best candidate because of his ability to recruit, which includes four-star big man Jermaine Harris and current guard Jeff Dowtin, and his established presence in the URI locker room.
Whoever Bjorn and company go with will be the most important hire in school history. The next coach will inherit a team that has gone to back-to-back tournaments and captured the first A-10 regular season title in school history. Bjorn has had one hire in his tenure at Rhode Island and it was a pretty good choice looking back.