Dan Hurley coaches first basketball game at UConn

UConn Men's Basketball Coach Dan Hurley at his introductory press conference.

STORRS — The Dan Hurley era of UConn basketball has begun.

The Huskies showed off the pressing, fast-breaking system of their new coach in a 96-64 exhibition win Friday night over Division II Southern Connecticut.

Hurley, who called this his dream job when he was hired in the spring, acknowledged having a few more nerves than on an average game day.

“I’ve never coached any of these guys in a game situation in front of a crowd, so I had no idea what anyone was going to do,” Hurley said. “I guess I didn’t sleep that well last night.”

The 45-year-old got his first standing ovation from the UConn student section as he walked to the bench. He didn’t sit down the entire game, gesturing and yelling for the Huskies to push the ball or squatting next to a bench player to make a coaching point.

“I love being out there,” Hurley said. “For me it’s like gladiators in the old coliseum. It’s just a high you get from walking through that tunnel, smelling the popcorn and competing. There’s nothing better.”

The team responded with 45 fast-break points and outscored the overmatched Owls 46-14 in the paint.

Former Husky Scott Burrell, who coaches Southern Connecticut, said he was impressed by UConn’s energy and fight.

“They had a little nastiness in ’em,” he said. “That’s the way Danny coaches this team and I think that’s what’s going to make them very good.”

Hurley, who left Rhode Island after six years and two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, takes over a program that has won four national championships, but went 14-18 last season.

He found plenty of things to criticize about his team’s play and said he will have the Huskies doing old-fashioned rebounding drills over the next few days.

But his players, picked to finish fifth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, believe this could be the start of something very good.

“Our team is just humble and hungry, and can’t wait to get out there to prove a lot of people wrong,” star guard Jalen Adams said.

The season starts for real Nov. 8 in Gampel Pavilion against Morehead State.