Photo by Autumn Walter |CIGAR| Over the past six years, URI has had an emotional ride with Dan Hurley as head coach.
We all knew it was coming. The tough reality that the University of Rhode Island is not a destination job on the college basketball map resulted in former Rams head coach Dan Hurley becoming a shoe-in for a high profile job given his resume, experience and last name.
We might have known that Hurley’s departure was on the horizon but thanks to back-to-back trips to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament and an aggressive counter offer from URI to keep Hurley in Kingston, there was suddenly a glimmer of hope that he would call Rhode Island his home for years to come.
The hope of Hurley staying at URI became a fantasy last Thursday when it was announced that he would fill the head coaching vacancy at the University of Connecticut. A bigger paycheck, a bigger name and bigger opportunities moved Hurley to Storrs, Connecticut.
After a week of thinking this over I feel like I can actually put my thoughts into words. I don’t blame those that are upset and frustrated with Hurley’s departure and I’m sure that my thoughts don’t represent all Rhode Island fans. With that said, thank you, Coach Hurley. I tip my cap to you and wish him the best on this new adventure.
Over the past two years I have grown so much as a sports journalist. Between trips to the Patriots locker room or covering Little League baseball in my home city of Warwick, Rhode Island, I’ve done a lot and continue to improve every single day (at least I’d like to think so). But, where I have grown the most is in media scrums and press conferences surrounding the Rhode Island basketball program. Hurley treated me like I was tenured media. He was quotable, approachable and always willing to help me out as much as he could.
Three times over the past two seasons Hurley gave me one-on-one interviews. Everytime he was accepting of the interview without hesitation.
The first one came last season just two weeks after the Rams lost to Oregon in round of 32. Hurley’s dad, Bob Hurley Sr., and St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey were facing financial hardship and were on the brink of closing and I was working on a story for The Cigar about the situation. Despite all the emotions of a season ending and tough times back home, Coach Hurley still scheduled a time to sit down with me, a 19-year-old contributing sports reporter for a school paper. I grew as a reporter thanks to opportunities like this.
Over the past three seasons one moment stands out the most. It was a Saturday morning at the Ryan Center. The URI women’s basketball game was about to get underway within the next couple hours and I was setting up the equipment for a WRIU broadcast. Going on about four hours of sleep and my second broadcast in less than 14 hours, I was torn between two attitudes: is this all worth it? Or, I just have to push through. I was there early and Hurley was sitting along the court with a couple of his student athletes and Tom Moore.
“Stone Freeman, how are ya?” Hurley said. “I’m well, Coach. Congrats on the win last night,” I said. Hurley said thank you and began to talk me up to Moore. “Coach Moore, you know this kid?” Hurley said. “He should be on Highly Questionable by now.” I laughed, thanked him and continued to chat for a couple minutes.
As I walked away, I took about three steps before I heard him say, “Hey, Stone.” I turned back around. “Don’t stop. Keep going,” he said. “I don’t plan to,” I said. “Just gotta keep moving forward.”
Hurley has laid the foundation for future success for the Rhode Island basketball program. As much as it sucks to see him with “UCONN” striped across his chest and not Rhode Island, his contributions to URI cannot go unnoticed. Also, to a lesser degree, the contributions he’s made to me as a reporter and a person can’t either. I’ve enjoyed every step over these last three seasons.
I offer the same words that Coach Hurley lended me that Saturday morning on his next adventure. Don’t stop, Coach. Keep going. Until our paths cross again.