Danny Hurley, Rhode Island took the hard route to the Big Dance


This was after a home loss to Fordham, a defeat most experts felt at the time was a death blow to Rhode Island’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Prior to the next game, Danny Hurley brought his five veterans — Hassan Martin, E.C. Matthews, Jarvis Garrett, Jared Terrell and Kuran Iverson — into his office.

“We have to do it right now,” Hurley told them. “We can do it. We’re good enough, but we’re running out of time.”

“We haven’t lost since,” Hurley said in a phone interview on Sunday, shortly after the Rams knocked off VCU, 70-63, in the Atlantic 10 title game, clinching the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999.

Rhode Island will open NCAA Tournament play Friday in Sacramento, Calif., as an 11 seed, facing No. 6 Creighton of the Big East. It will be Hurley’s first NCAA Tournament in seven seasons as a head coach, his first trip to this big stage after massive rebuilding jobs at Wagner College and Rhode Island.

URI (24-9) enters the tournament one of the hottest teams in the country, with eight straight victories, five by double-figures. The Rams finally got healthy — Martin, the star senior forward from Staten Island, has healed from a torn groin and Garrett is back playing limited minutes after missing significant time with a stomach illness — and now look like the team that was ranked in the top 25 during the preseason.

Danny HurleyGetty Images

Hurley, the former Seton Hall star and son of Hall of Fame St. Anthony of Jersey City coach Bob Hurley Sr., felt this team could have been done this last year, but injuries ruined a promising season. Matthews suffered a torn ACL in the season opener, and Martin fractured his knee.

“We built up a lot of resiliency these last two years” Hurley said. “When we finally got healthy, we became the team we all thought we could be. … I think what makes it even sweeter is the journey that this program has been through the last two years, the preseason ranking this year, the criticism or the noise of us as an underachiever without people really telling the story of what we were going through.

“The injuries we dealt with this year usually cripples teams, and it speaks to the quality of the program and the quality of these young men I get to coach that it didn’t.”

Rutgers twice tried to woo Hurley in recent years. Other schools came calling. But he wanted to finish the job at Rhode Island, get the school back to the NCAA Tournament.

“This is why I stayed, this is why I came here,” he said, “for a moment like today with these kids.”



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