03/22 17:46 CDT Coaches' sons Hurley and Musselman to meet in Sweet 16
Coaches' sons Hurley and Musselman to meet in Sweet 16
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Basketball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) --- Every day he wasn't out recruiting or away at a game, Bill
Musselman wrote a message on his son's school lunch bag.
Effort, energy, enthusiasm.
The message and the relentless pursuit of perfection it implored served as the
substratum of Eric Musselman's life.
"Everything that happened with my dad and I, whenever I was around him, being a
competitor was kind of beyond belief," the Arkansas coach said Wednesday.
UConn coach Dan Hurley knows the feeling.
Like Musselman, he spent his childhood being told just good enough might as
well be failure.
The two coaches' sons have come together in the desert, preparing for a Sweet
16 game Thursday night that will push one a step closer to college basketball's
"I think being coaches' kids just gives you such a unique perspective and it
makes basketball such a huge part of your life," Hurley said. "I think that's
why we both coach with so much passion and we live and die with every
Hurley's father, Bob, is one of the few high school coaches to be inducted into
the Naismith Hall of Fame, a hoops firebrand who led St. Anthony High School to
26 New Jersey state titles.
Dan and his brother Bobby played for their father and watched as he demanded
excellence from his players on and off the court.
Bobby won two national championships as a player at Duke and is currently
Arizona State's head coach.
Dan played at Seton Hall and, after stints at Wagner and Rhode Island, was
tasked with rebuilding UConn back into national prominence when he was hired
three years ago. The Huskies have gone to the NCAA Tournament in each of his
three seasons and are one win from the program's first Elite Eight since
winning the 2014 national title.
"I want to be the college version of my dad," Hurley said. "I want to coach
with integrity, be a man of my word and have the holistic type of approach that
my dad had, be a coach's coach like my dad, not a phony or a fraud or a liar or
How important has his dad been? Hurley had to compose himself for several
seconds after being asked about him Wednesday in Las Vegas.
"That was a brutal last question, buddy," he said before pausing. "I'm just
glad my dad's at the games."
Musselman's dad, who died at 59 in 2000 after suffering a stroke, zigzagged his
way across the country coaching in the NBA, American Basketball Association,
Western Basketball Association and college over four decades.
His father's travels gave the younger Musselman a unique view into the world of
basketball and beyond.
Musselman went on road trips with his father, served as a ball boy for opposing
teams and got to know people most kids at the time only dreamed of meeting. He
absorbed his father's intensity and attention to detail, and served as an
assistant under him with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
"To be able to work with him with the Timberwolves and watch his preparation,
watch how he conducted practice, his attention to detail," Musselman said. "And
I was lucky to watch him meet with so many other coaches in different sports. I
was just exposed to a whole different lifestyle than everybody else that I grew
Musselman followed his father's coaching footsteps after playing at the
University of San Diego. He became head coach of the Continental Basketball
Association's Rapid City Thrillers at age 24 and later coached the NBA's
Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.
Intrigued by the prospect of coaching in college, Musselman wanted to learn
from the ground level, so he took jobs as an assistant at Arizona State and
LSU. He was clearly ready once he become a head coach, leading Nevada to three
straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the 2018 Sweet 16.
Musselman has had even sweeter success in Fayetteville. He led the Razorbacks
to the Elite Eight in his second season and returned there last year. He is
seeking a third straight appearance in a regional final.
That run seemed to be headed toward an end this season when Trevon Brazile tore
his ACL and five-star freshman Nick Smith Jr. was limited by knee injuries. The
Razorbacks rallied like their tenacious coach, pulling off a win over No. 1
seed Kansas that Musselman celebrating with his shirt off.
"We just kept kind of grinding and looking at the next game on our schedule and
trying to have belief," Musselman said. "And here we are again. It's a
resilient team that's overcome a lot for sure."
Just like its coach --- and UConn's.
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