WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of an experience he will never forget, UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley recalled a euphoric blue and white confetti snow globe he had stood in downtown Houston nearly eight weeks earlier.
Outside the White House, after President Joe Biden was credited with winning his fifth national championship on the show, Hurley embraced it all.
“For me, this is one of the greatest honors in team sports,” Hurley told reporters after he made some jokes and thanked the president in the East Room of the White House.
“When you win a national championship, you cut the nets, which is symbolic and an amazing experience. And the next thing that hits you when you go to the locker room, I think I turned to the assistant coaches and said, “I think we’re going to the White House.”
Hurley got a few laughs from those sitting in the East Room’s gold chairs—his jokes ranged from how much faster police escorts traveled around Washington. and in Houston, how “crazy” it was with all the cameras looking straight at him from across the room, and violinists and pianists greeting the band as soon as they walked in. He even made sure Biden knew the president wouldn’t want to be in a position with Adama Sanogo.
“It’s such a unique experience that rewards all the sacrifices and struggles, it just makes it all worth it,” said Hurley.
Karaban’s experience inspires an encore
Alex Karaban, the six-foot-tall striker who was unanimously named to the Big East All-Freshman team as a Huskies starter, was able to spend some time at home in Southborough, Massachusetts, after cutting the net – occasionally returning to the Storrs for training or championship celebration.
When his parents found out he was going to the White House, “they were shocked,” he said, not hiding a youthful smile Chin which brought him happiness.
“They didn’t expect this. I know they watched the live stream and they really couldn’t believe it. They were just very happy for me.”
Karaban’s spot on the East Room tapes was in the back row center behind Hassan Diarra and to the right of Donovan Clingan – with whom he had spent Tuesday, surprising Dunkin customers support children’s hospitals. As decision time approaches for stars Andre Jackson, who handed Biden his UConn No. 46 jersey, and Tristen Newton, who got lucky at the end just outside the president’s podium, these three have already put all their balls in the back – in the back basket.
“I feel great in the group, I know we now have experience after winning everything, and the coaching staff is doing a great job developing players, so I know I’m going to take that leap, Donovan and everyone else,” said Karaban. “We haven’t seen the best of Samson (Johnson), we haven’t seen the best of Hassan – I already know what they’re going to bring.
“And then the first years, too. We will have to adapt them, we have to acclimate them, they will be very important for us. So we really need to move them. And I think once we get through the summer together and start clicking together, I think everything will be fine.
With Jordan Hawkins and Sanogo looking to stay in the NBA draft, Jackson and Newton have until Wednesday to decide. Hurley said first class, ranked Ranked #3 in the country by 247Sportsstarts moving into campus this weekend.
Dan Hurley, politician?
Although Hurley made it clear that most of his attention was absorbed by basketball and he had little interest in politics, his White House experience made him feel that he “really could relate to politicians.”
“My son actually chose politics above sports – my oldest, Danny, works for the president of the Senate in New Jersey. So he chose the only business that’s harder than being a coach or a high-level athlete, and that’s politics,” Hurley said. “But (President Biden) was just great with our players, reassuring us and being so relatable. We had a great experience talking to him. Cool dude.”
A bittersweet conclusion
Like UConn’s dominant run in the NCAA Tournament, the visit to the White House was a bittersweet moment as it marks the last time this group of 38 – players, coaches, managers, coaches and administrators – who stood on the tapes will be together right away.
“When we were in the tournament, I always said, ‘We don’t want this to end, we want to keep playing with each other. We don’t want the last game to come. The last game came and everything passed, but now things like this and moments like this make me realize that we don’t want to let go of things off the court as well, the relationship and the time we spent with one another. It’s definitely bittersweet,” Jackson said.
“I will be constantly connected to all these guys for the rest of my life. Whether it’s back-to-back, I mean I have relationships with each of these guys, so I’ll always check them out, I’ll always have their best interests, and they’ll always have mine. This is a brotherhood that was built and didn’t start that way. We’ve worked for everything we’ve got, and at the point where we’re at now, we’re all very close, so we’ll still be in our corner.
Set to be selected in the first round of the June NBA draft, Hawkins hopes to play with some of his UConn teammates in the league.
“I can’t wait for these guys’ names to be called. It’s going to be like I’ve just been drafted, how excited I’m going to be about these guys,” Hawkins said. “I’d love to play with these guys, but if it comes to that, I have to fry them.”