Hogs Can Benefit from Domino Effect of Dan Hurley Going to the Lakers

Bruce Pearl, Liam McNeeley, Austin Reaves, UConn basketball, Los Angeles Lakers, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal
photo credit: Auburn Athletics / UConn Athletics / Los Angeles Lakers

For a while, the most seismic change in college basketball this offseason was John Calipari leaving Kentucky to become the next Arkansas basketball coach.

That could soon be challenged if reports of Dan Hurley, the head coach of two-time defending national champion UConn, being pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers actually come to fruition.

The Huskies are geared up for a run at the sport’s first three-peat since John Wooden’s UCLA teams 50-plus years ago. Even with their two leading scorers graduating and a pair of projected top-10 picks moving on to the NBA, they still have a loaded roster and along with Kansas are widely viewed as one of the preseason’s top two teams.

It’d be tough for any move to have more of an impact on the Razorbacks than the other coach who left an established spot for a job in Los Angeles this offseason, but Hurley deciding to coach LeBron James, Arkansas native Austin Reaves and other Lakers could cause multiple ripples that reach Calipari’s program.

New Blood in the Transfer Portal?

The most direct way Arkansas might benefit from Dan Hurley taking the Los Angeles Lakers job stems from the fact that every player on the UConn basketball roster would have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal.

Considering the talent on the Huskies, chaos would ensue.

This is a double-dose of speculation given Hurley has not officially left Storrs, Conn., and these players would in that case have to choose to leave at a time when a lot of rosters for big-time programs across the country are already full.

However, there are several tantalizing prospects who could come available and guess who still has four scholarship spots available?

Yes, John Calipari has been vocal about his desire to have only 8-10 core rotation players, with walk-ons filling out the rest of the squad. He recently said he was hoping to add one more player, and it turned out that ninth roster spot was filled by retaining Trevon Brazile.

Perhaps they’ve maxed out their current NIL budget, but you’d be foolish to think the Razorbacks wouldn’t be at least interested in the below players. Dan Hurley soon dons the Lakers yellow and purple,  these Huskies would presumably be looking for another program with legitimate Final Four aspirations and a coach capable of developing them into NBA Draft prospects.

Here are a few who’d make sense:

  • Alex Karaban (F | 6-8 | 220): Lone returning starter after testing NBA Draft waters as possible second-round pick… Averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds… Career 38.9% 3PT shooter
  • Liam McNeeley (F | 6-7 | 190): McDonald’s All-American… Consensus top-20 recruit in 2024 class, including No. 9 on ESPN… Recruited by John Calipari at both Kentucky and Arkansas
  • Aidan Mahaney (G | 6-3 | 180): Transfer from St. Mary’s… Averaged 13.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists… Career 37.5% 3PT shooter… No. 23 player in 2024 transfer portal cycle, per 247Sports
  • Tarris Reed Jr. (F | 6-10 | 265): Transfer from Michigan… Averaged 9.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 26.6 minutes… No. 27 player in 2024 transfer portal cycle, per Rivals
  • Hassan Diarra (G | 6-2 | 190): Big East Sixth Man of the Year… Began career at Texas A&M… Will be a super senior… Averaged 6.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 19.4 minutes

If the Huskies find themselves searching for a new coach, they’ll almost certainly land an established coach because of their status as a blue blood program. (And yes, UConn basketball is now a true blue blood. SIX national titles in 25 years with three different head coaches is proof.)

One such candidate could be Auburn’s Bruce Pearl:

That’d definitely make the SEC look different, wouldn’t it? The Tigers went 15 years between NCAA Tournament appearances before Pearl finally got them back in 2018 and now they’ve made five of the last six. They’re also consistently near the top of the SEC standings.

In this hypothetical scenario, would Auburn be able to replace him with a coach that could continue that success, or would it revert back to being a mediocre program?

That’s not even to mention a potentially even larger pool of players in the transfer portal if Pearl’s players at Auburn would then in turn use the 30-day transfer portal window.

Of course, it could create a domino effect depending on who the Tigers hire, and who knows how that ends up. No one could have predicted that SMU firing Rob Lanier would eventually lead to John Calipari coming to Arkansas and Musselman hanging out on a beach with the fired Lakers head coach whom Hurley would replace.

UPDATE (June 7): One thing that’d prevent a domino effect from occurring would be UConn making an internal hire. Based on a report from Fox Sports’ John Fanta, it sounds like that may be the plan if the Huskies can’t keep Hurley, with assistants Kimani Young and Luke Murray the top options.

Clearer Path for Arkansas Basketball

Now that John Calipari is leading the program, the Final Four hopes that returned with Eric Musselman have gone to another level. A lot of fans are ready for the Razorbacks to reach the mountaintop for the first time since 1994.

Winning like that in Year 1, even with a loaded roster, will be difficult, but it may be a little easier without the coach who won the last two titles standing in the way.

Arkansas fans got a first-hand look at the beast Dan Hurley built at UConn just two years ago, when the Huskies demolished the Razorbacks in the Sweet 16. In that game, Alex Karaban notched a perfect 5-5 from the field along with grabbing 7 rebounds.

Sure, the next coach in Storrs, Conn. could keep things rolling, but taking over for someone like Hurley is quite the task. Plus, the aforementioned domino effect of hiring and transfer portal jumping could take out other programs, further paving a clearer path for Arkansas.

That’s looking way ahead, and possibly putting the cart ahead of the horse, but crazier things have happened:

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