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Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said he has had no talks with Rutgers officials about replacing the fired Mike Rice, and that he is looking forward to returning next season to a Rams team expected to be vastly improved from its 8-21 predecessor.
Though a source close to the situation said Rutgers intermediaries have reached out to a number of Hurley's associates and family members in the wake of the Rutgers scandal that claimed the jobs of Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti, among others, Hurley on Sunday told ESPN Radio's "The Ian O'Connor Show" he plans on remaining at Rhode Island.
"I've had no conversations [with Rutgers]," Hurley, a former Rutgers assistant and an ex-head coach at New Jersey prep powerhouse St. Benedict's, and the son of St. Anthony of Jersey City coaching legend Bob Hurley Sr., said Sunday morning in his first interview since the scandal broke. "Obviously because of the [Hurley] name and because of our history in New Jersey, there's going to be a natural connection to be made there.
"For me, my family loves Rhode Island, loves the people there. We've adjusted really, really well to living outside of New Jersey for the first time in our lives. Two of my three years as a college coach have been in rebuilding situations, and that's a tough thing to go through. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of wear and tear on you.
"The opportunity to come back to Rhode Island next year and coach a team that hopefully can make a huge jump with all the talent we're now going to bring onto the court next year, I'm excited ... to coach this group of kids that I'm going to be fortunate enough to coach next year."
Pernetti announced his resignation as Rutgers' athletic director Friday, two days after he fired Rice. It was unclear what the school's timetable was for hiring a new AD and coach.
SI.com reported Saturday night that Hurley was close to a two-year extension that would keep him under contract at Rhode Island through 2020. Asked on "The Ian O'Connor Show" if he was indeed close to a deal that would eliminate him as a Rutgers candidate, Hurley didn't specifically address his contract.
"We've had ongoing conversations for the last several months about the things that we need as a program to close that competitive balance with where the Atlantic 10 is going as a conference, to try to have the things for our program and our players that enhance their development ... and just get it on par with the people we're competing against in our conference," Hurley said.
"I'm really happy with where I am right now, and getting these things in place programmatically so that we can elevate the program at the University of Rhode Island to a point where maybe we're playing this time of the year in the future. But having those things in place I think is critical for me as a competitor.
"I want to be in position where I can take a program to the highest levels of college basketball, and the commitment that I think we're on the verge of making at Rhode Island, and with all the recruiting and the level we're going to coach guys at, I'm really excited to be there and want to be there."
Hurley has a highly regarded circle of transfers that become eligible next season, including former Rutgers player Gil Biruta, who was among those allegedly subjected to Rice's verbal abuse. Hurley's class of incoming freshmen includes Michigan's E.C. Matthews, ranked among the top 100 recruits in the nation.
Hurley built a 223-21 record at St. Benedict's of Newark (N.J.) before taking over a losing program at Wagner College. He went 25-6 in his second season there before leaving for another rebuilding job at Rhode Island with his older brother Bobby, the former Duke All-American who's now the head coach at the University at Buffalo. Unless URI officials unexpectedly reverse field and decline Hurley's requests for program upgrades, it appears he won't be heading to Rutgers.
"Rutgers has always been a place that a lot of people in the business and in the state have always felt had a lot of potential," Hurley said. "For one reason or another, whether it's timing or fit, it just hasn't worked out great for the last 25 years, 30 years or so, in terms of having great, great success.
"I think a couple of coaches have been on the verge of it. They'll find somebody that will be able to come in there and stabilize the program hopefully, because they have some enormous challenges on the horizon going into one of the best conferences in the country with all of the stuff they have swirling around."