Summer 2024

Dan Hurley leads UConn men to back-to-back titles as he leans on his 'faith in Jesus Christ'

The Connecticut Huskies have strengthened their stranglehold on the college basketball world.

UConn capped off another dominant run in the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament with a convincing victory in the national championship game, 75-60, over Purdue.

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Monday night’s heavyweight battle marked the program’s second consecutive national title and sixth in seven trips to the Final Four (all since 1999).

Leading the Huskies was coach Dan Hurley, who now enters rare air with a second consecutive national championship on his coaching resume. The Florida Gators in 2006-07, led by Billy Donovan, were the last team to repeat as national champions.

“It’s the best two-year run I think in a very, very long time just because of everything we lost from last year’s team,” Hurley said in the postgame press conference, referring to losing three of UConn’s top six scorers from last season. “To lose that much and to do what we did again, it’s got to be as impressive a two-year run as a program’s had since prior to whoever did it before Duke (in 1991-92). To me it is more impressive than what Florida and Duke did because they brought back their entire teams. We lost some major players.”

Hurley’s six seasons at UConn have seen an incredible turnaround. The program missed the NCAA Tournament altogether in 2016-17 and 2017-18, then fired head coach Kevin Ollie amid an NCAA investigation. Enter Hurley, who had just taken Rhode Island to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

The Huskies again missed out on March Madness in Hurley’s first two seasons in Storrs, Connecticut, but they’ve steadily improved each year since. They’ve reached the Big Dance each of the past four seasons, the last two ending with trophy presentations. This year’s squad set a program record for most wins in a season with 37.

And UConn put together one of the most dominant runs in modern college basketball history, winning all 12 of its tournament games the last two seasons by 13 or more points. This year, the Huskies won their six tournament games by an average of 23.3 points — the highest average winning margin since the field went to 64 teams in 1985 — and their +140-point differential is the best ever in a single tournament.

The players who’ve helped put it all together credit their head coach.

“In every single huddle, [Hurley is] making sure that we don’t take our foot off the gas,” 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan said on Friday, according to, before the team’s Final Four victory against Alabama.

“Everyone in the Final Four now feels pressure, but we don’t have more pressure on us than Alabama, Purdue or N.C. State because everyone here believes they’re going to win the national championship,” Hurley said, according to “What helps us, though, is the pressure that we feel from the beginning of the season, because of the history and the tradition, and the pressure of every game that we play at UConn. We’re not under the radar ever.”

Hurley has been able to keep himself and his team unshakable all season, even with a target on their backs since November, by relying on his faith in Christ.

“My foundation is super strong,” Hurley said on the “The Ed Mylett Show” last August. “My foundation starts with my faith — my faith in Jesus Christ. … That foundation that I have at home and my faith, like I can handle anything that comes with this job — the criticism, the losing, the going through tough stretches. I am built to handle everything that comes with this job because of my background, my foundation.”

After learning more about the importance of a morning routine from Donovan (who’s now the Chicago Bulls head coach), Hurley has sought to spend his early morning hours with the Lord.

“Your spiritual readings and your prayer, your meditation practice,” Hurley said. “For me, my journaling, whether it’s free writing or gratitude journaling.”

When asked about his faith at his press conference on Friday at the Final Four, Hurley revealed that he also has a postgame routine.

“When I get back in the locker room after a great victory, I find just a couple minutes to pray to pray to God to be grateful and thankful for giving me and the team the strength,” he said. “I think about all the people that you’ve lost in life that are in Heaven that have helped you get here.

“When you’re going through the struggles, too, it’s the faith, your faith in God, that gets you through the tough times. Whether it’s good times or bad times, your faith in Jesus Christ is what’s going to be your rock.”

Amidst the jubilant chaos of a championship locker room, with perhaps one of the most animated and energetic coaches in the college game today, you may just find an unexpected site: Hurley tucked in a corner, head bowed, thanking the One who made it all possible.

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