180322ind hurley web file

University of Rhode Island men's basketball head coach Dan Hurley runs toward a trampoline to slam dunk a basketball during the Rhody Madness pep rally event held Oct. 13 at the Ryan Center. Hurley has accepted the head coaching job at the University of Connecticut.

The University Rhode Island will “immediately” begin a national search for its next men's basketball following the departure of Dan Hurley for the head coaching position at the University of Connecticut, officials announced Thursday.

"Dan Hurley brought Rhode Island basketball to unprecedented heights, and he leaves the program in a far better place than it was when he arrived," URI Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn said in a press release regarding the coaching change. "I wish nothing but the best for him and his family moving forward."

Hurley, who has led the URI team since 2012, was one of the most successful coaches in the program's history. His 113-82 record is fifth-best among Rams coaches, and his winning percentage is second only to that of Frank Keaney. The team fell just short of a second consecutive Atlantic 10 Tournament title this year, and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season before falling to Duke University March 17.

After also being courted by the University of Pittsburgh, Hurley informed players and staff that he had accepted UConn's offer Thursday morning.

Bjorn held a press conference Thursday afternoon after URI confirmed Hurley's departure through the release. He acknowledged being a "little bummed," about Hurley's decision, but said the departing coach has been transparent throughout the process.

Regarding the offer URI put together in an attempt to convince Hurley to stay, Bjorn described it as "aggressive" and a "great package." He said parts of the offer will be on the table for the next head coach, but negotiations will be approached on an individual basis.

"It was an aggressive offer and one that we felt really good about, one that we dealt with and talked about internally," Bjorn said. “I have zero regrets in the offer we made."

He added, "Obviously, Coach Hurley has made the decision to take on the head-coaching position at the University of Connecticut. With that, I really wish him well. I have enjoyed our friendship and partnership in the last six years and [I am] very appreciative of what we’ve been able to build, of what he’s been able to build, with the quality of players he’s been able to bring here."

Bjorn said the process of hiring the next head coach has already begun, and candidates have reached out to express interest in the position. He expects to select a candidate in approximately two weeks.

David Cox, currently associate head coach for the Rams, is a candidate for the position, Bjorn said. Under the terms of his contract, he would receive additional compensation if not chosen for the position.

Cox has played a key role in recruiting a number of players to URI, and Bjorn described him as the “go-to guy” for players and staff following Hurley's departure.

Bjorn reiterated that the search will be a national one, however, and said there are other candidates on the university's radar.

“You have to have that list, and you have to have those contacts,” he said. “You have to be talking to people ... Let’s be honest. You all know that [Hurley's] name has come up before [for other coaching positions] … What I don’t want to do is limit myself to one person. I want to go out and find that right fit.”

Along with Cox, speculation has focused on Buffalo coach Nate Oats and Vermont coach John Becker as potential successors to Hurley.

Bjorn said his goals for the basketball program have not changed – to be the best in the Atlantic 10 Conference and make it to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

“We are not a house of cards,” he said. “We are built on a solid foundation with an incredible investment and incredible facilities with the desire to not stop. We want to continue building on these things.”

He added, "[Coaches] want to know that this isn’t just a place that you can come and make a good living and live by the beach. This is a place where you can win championships, and that’s our expectation."

The Independent will have further updates as this story develops.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Thursday's press conference.

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