What Dan’s Hurley’s ex-college coach P.J. Carlesimo said about UConn men’s basketball coach

ALBANY, N.Y. — P.J. Carlesimo has known Dan Hurley since Hurley was a toddler when, as head coach at Wagner College, Carlesimo recruited kids coached by Bob Hurley Sr., Dan's dad, at St. Anthony's High in Jersey City, N.J.

Carlesimo, 73, would later coach Hurley at Seton Hall, and remains in regular contact with him to this day.

"I've known him basically almost his entire life," Carlesimo said on Thursday.

But Carlesimo, who has been a TV and radio analyst for the Pac-12 Network, Westwood One and other networks for several years now, has never called one of Dan Hurley's games.

That changes on Friday, when Carlesimo will be on the call for Westwood One when Hurley's UConn men's basketball team faces Iona in an NCAA Tournament first-round game at MVP Arena (4:30 p.m., TBS). 

"I'm just so happy about the job he's done," Carlesimo said of Hurley, who has guided the Huskies to a 25-8 record and the No. 4 seed of the tournament's West Region. "I just have a really good feeling every time I watch him coaching on TV. If he has a huge win, I'll text him and he'll call back. It's really just more a good feeling seeing somebody you've known, for somebody so long, do so well."

Hurley went through three trying and triumphant seasons playing for Carlesimo at Seton Hall. The Pirates won the Big East regular-season championship in Hurley's freshman and sophomore seasons, and copped the conference tournament title the latter season.

But as a junior, Hurley, burdened by the expectations of being Bob Hurley Sr.'s son and national-champion Bobby Hurley's younger brother, coupled with his own sporadic play, led him to start acting "like a crazy college kid" — drinking, partying and, ultimately, taking a leave of absence from the team.

Hurley would return to the Pirates for the second semester, but only participated in practices, even after Carlesimo asked if he was ready to return to games. After that season, Carlesimo left to take over the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. George Blaney took over at Seton Hall, and Hurley wound up a 1,000-point scorer.

"He's one of the three central figures in my coaching life, and obviously won a regular-season championship with him," Hurley said of Carlesimo. "I just learned so much from him about coaching, and I grew up so much under him."

Although Carlesimo is more than 20 years Hurley's senior, the two share many similarities Carlesimo's father, Peter, went to Saint Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., where Dan would later coach, turning a dying, inner-city program into one of the better prep programs in the nation. Both Carlesimo (six years) and Hurley (two) coached at Wagner. 

And now, Hurley is coaching in the Big East, just as Carlesimo did for 12 seasons at Seton Hall.

Carlesimo recalls when Hurley was briefly an assistant coach at Rutgers in the late 90s.

"I remember people telling me then, 'Hey, Danny Hurley is a really good coach.' Obviously, what he did at Benedict's, and his whole career, I'm just happy for him," Carlesimo said.. It's not like I'm proud that I contributed at all. I don't think that was the case. When you know somebody as well as I've known Danny, and just seeing the kind of coach that he's grown into, it's just a great feeling."

Of course, not everything is similar between the two. Like Hurley, Carlesimo's dad was a well-known coach, but at football. And P.J. was the oldest of 10 kids, not the younger brother of a star at Duke and NBA player.

"It's another reason that it's great to see how well he's done," Carlesimo said. "I don't think it's easy to be Bob and Chris Hurley's son, and I don't think it's easy to be Bobby Hurley's younger brother. That's something that Danny's obviously dealt with his entire life. I didn't have that. When you play at St. Anthony's and then go to Seton Hall, and you're right there in the middle of it ... I think, in a sense, Bobby going to Duke certainly wasn't easy, but it was probably in some ways a good thing to be out of Jersey and to be, if possible, another basketball player. Not being Bob Hurley's son or, in Danny's case, Bobby's little brother."

Carlesimo has worked for Westwood One, mostly doing West Coast games, for several years now. Between that and work for the Pac-12 TV network, he sees Bobby a lot more often an Dan. On Thursday, Carlesimo and Hurley were seen embracing and sharing in conversation several times.

Was P.J. offering advice? Not at all. But he does warn that Iona, coached by Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, could be a "dangerous game."

"If there's ever a trap game, this is it," Carlesimo said. "It's a way tougher game than the seeding would indicate. Obviously, Rick's not playing — Danny and Rick would be a hell of a game — but Rick's team is a very, very good team. Their backcourt is excellent. I know Nelly (Junior Joseph, Iona's 6-foot-10 forward) very well, because I've been involved with NBA Academies for a long time and I knew him when he was in Senegal."

"That's not a normal 13 seed," Carlesimo continued. "I just think it's going to be a very challenging game. If (the Huskies) play the way they're capable of, I think they'll be OK. But I think it will be a lot tougher game than some people might think."

david.borges@hearstmediact.com @DaveBorges