Tristan Thompson shook his head in utter disbelief after being informed of the morning routine of his former high school coach, Dan Hurley. Then he immediately called over his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate and fellow ex-Hurley player, JR Smith, from across the locker room, and the pair burst into laughter together.
A creature of habit, Hurley's alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. every day. After 20 minutes on the Peloton bike, Hurley hits the gym at 6:30 and walks into his office at 7:45. He closes the door, flips down the shades, lights lavender and peppermint candles, opens the "Calm" guided meditation app on his phone and proceeds to sit in the chair with his eyes shut and meditate for 15 minutes before reading the Bible and praying for another 15.
Welcome to the kinder, gentler Dan Hurley.
Sure, the sideline intensity is still plenty prevalent, the inability at times to handle losing -- which he refers to as "shame" that he and his brother, Bobby, inherited from their father -- is still there. But Hurley has matured, especially over the last couple years. Gone are the days when he'd rip his shirt, "Hulk Hogan" style after built-up frustration due to a lackluster practice effort. So, too, are the ones when he'd hide under his desk before games, shades closed, headphones on in an effort to find comfort prior to a game.
Now mushroom coffee and Thai yoga have replaced five-hour energy drinks and Red Bull.
That's what Connecticut is getting in its new coach after Hurley was announced as the Huskies' new coach Thursday.
It began with the injury to E.C. Matthews two years ago in the season opener. After three seasons of steady improvement at Rhode Island, 2015 supposed to be the year in Kingston, Rhode Island, the one in which the Rams finally got back to the NCAA tourney for the first time this century. But those dreams were shattered on the very first day of the season when Matthews went down with a knee injury.
Hurley couldn't come to grips with what had just happened.
"I was devastated," Hurley said. "E.C. is so important to me, like a son to me. Him committing to coming here, he took a leap of faith. The plan was for him to go to NCAA tournament, he was going to enter the draft, and it blew up on opening night. It took me three or four weeks to get out of the fog, get focused. It was so devastating, the relationship was too deep and I was too immature to compartmentalize that."
Then in late January, with Hassan Martin still dealing with a knee injury, Hurley watched as two more players went down in a home loss to St. Joseph's. Kuran Iverson was elbowed to the face and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and Jarvis Garrett would later follow Iverson after picking up a couple of teeth off the floor, he too the recipient of an elbow to the face.
"They hurt his kids," said Hurley's wife, Andrea. "We were all upset."
But Andrea was different. While she's the wife of a coach and married into one of the most well-known basketball families in the world, she admittedly knows little to nothing about the sport.
She watches the expressions on the faces of the players on the court, and mostly that of her husband as he roams the sideline.
"I focus on his well-being," she said. "The kids and Dan are what's important to me, not the game."
His demeanor was worrisome that game. He was even more animated, and she wasn't just concerned. She was embarrassed. When she saw him after the loss to the Hawks, the first thing Andrea noticed was his complexion. He was ghostly white. Then came the "boom boom boom" from his heart, which felt like it was exploding from his chest when they embraced.
When they finally got back home, an intervention of sorts came from Andrea and their two kids.
"You can't get that angry. It's not good for you and your health," she said. "Because for 40 minutes, you're making people think you're that guy. You're not that guy."
Hurley has always been a grinder, much like his older brother, Bobby, and their father, legendary former New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley -- but he has always been in the shadow of his more famous relatives. While Bobby, about 18 months his senior, was an elite-level recruit coming out of high school and then a college superstar at Duke, Dan had a solid career at Seton Hall -- averaging 8.8 points and 3.6 assists. After graduating, he spent a season as an assistant with his dad before a four-year stint on the Rutgers staff from 1997 to 2001.
Hurley then took over a fledgling St. Benedict's Prep program in Newark -- where he lost seven games the first season and a total of 14 over the next eight. There were opportunities, like Marist, but Andrea wouldn't leave the comforts provided to them in New Jersey even though he was making $40,000 and driving around Newark in her college car -- a maroon RAV4 with a pink tire on the back.
Finally, after nine seasons and a 223-21 record, they left for Wagner. The lone reason he was able to convince Andrea to leave St. Benedict's was because they didn't have to move. Hurley inherited a downtrodden program that had won five games, and he left for Rhode Island two years later.
Hurley took the URI job for $600,000 a year, but he signed up for something entirely different. He thought he would have Billy Baron, but the talented guard changed his mind and decided to play for his dad at Canisius. Talented freshman Jonathan Holton was booted for video voyeurism, and there were APR issues.
"What he inherited is not what I thought we even had," URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn told ESPN. "No Baron, no Holton and an APR problem that was real and scary -- and we didn't have a clue. We never got hit with a penalty, but we had to be perfect. ... We had no room for error, and that's not what he signed up for. I had no clue. That was a huge surprise, and one he didn't deserve."
But Hurley put his head down, recruited guys like Matthews and Jared Terrell, and then made strides each year. There were just eight wins his first season, 14 his second and then 23 and an NIT appearance in Year 3. But then came the injury to his star player and a rare step back. The NCAA tournament would have to wait another year.
Hurley had a lengthy conversation with Oklahoma City Thunder and former Florida coach Billy Donovan that summer. Hurley was all about feeling sorry for himself, and Donovan quickly set him straight.
"'Everything's about you,'" Hurley said Donovan told him. "'You have no balance in your life. What about the spiritual side? The mental side? What about workouts, physically how do you feel? Your diet? Relationships?'
"He got me thinking about all these different things to get myself to think clearer, be a more consistent leader. I knew I had to make changes."
Hurley, 45, still coaches with a reckless abandon. He still gets emotional at the refs, his players, the assistants. But he doesn't go over the edge anymore, and he's far more comfortable handling the stress between games.
"I watch every game of his," Bobby Hurley told ESPN. "His sideline demeanor has changed. His approach with officials is different. He's much more conversational with those guys."
Said Danny Hurley: "I'm also not suffering the way I used to suffer in between games or after losses because I have a system for handling the stress and anxieties," he said. "It's real and it works."
Now, Hurley takes over UConn, a team desperate to return to past success.
The Huskies are the only program in the past 20 years to have hung four national title banners, but since the improbable 2014 national championship, UConn has been largely irrelevant. Athletic director David Benedict fired Kevin Ollie after a second season in which the Huskies finished under-.500, and he tabbed Hurley on Thursday to return this program to prominence.
Hurley's rise at Rhode Island finished with a solid 26-8 record and a win over Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA tournament before a loss to Duke.
While his stress level has certainly improved, he's off to try it again in Storrs. But, he's still a Hurley -- which means he still worries, ultimately about winning.
"He's sensitive in a way," Andrea Hurley said. "He's very endearing and looks to his family for comfort and assurance. He needs to be loved and is so afraid to fail."
"But he's also so afraid to let everyone else down," she added. "It's really the fear of letting others down -- especially the kids on his team."