Dan Hurley: Rejecting Lakers' offer was not 'leverage play'

Dan Hurley tempted by Lakers job, but too many reasons to stay at UConn (1:06)

Dan Hurley talks about his decision to stay at UConn despite being pursued by the Lakers. (1:06)

Dan Hurley says his decision to reject a six-year, $70 million offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers was not a "leverage play" because he had already agreed to the terms of a new contract with UConn.

On "The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz" on Thursday, Hurley called the choice between coaching the Lakers for an eight-figure sum or returning to chase a third consecutive national title at UConn a difficult decision. But the leverage was unnecessary, he said, because he and UConn had already negotiated a new contract in recent weeks.

"One of the worst takes I've heard is that this is a leverage play by me to improve my situation at UConn," Hurley said on the show. "I don't need leverage here. We've won back-to-back national championships at this place. This was never a leverage situation for me.

"I've had a contract in place here for a couple of weeks. And the final part, in terms of salary, has been done for a while. There are some other parts, like NIL and staff salary and some different things, that I want adjusted and I'm not comfortable with. But the sense of the idea that this was some conspiracy to get me a sweeter deal at UConn is just, it's lazy."

Hurley admitted the Lakers probably could have made him an offer that he could not have refused. But the deal he has in place at UConn -- which the school has not announced -- will make him the highest-paid college coach in America, he said. He currently has a six-year, $32.1 million deal with UConn. Kansas coach Bill Self is currently the highest-paid coach at $9.6 million per year.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that the Lakers had decided to focus their search on Hurley over other candidates. Hurley flew to Los Angeles over the weekend to meet with general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss. He said Thursday, however, that he did not speak directly with the team's biggest star, LeBron James, before he made his choice.

"I did not [speak to James]," Hurley said. "We had some communication. ... It would have been a thrill to coach him."

Hurley said he had an agonizing weekend as he wrestled with his options.

"It was a gut-wrenching decision for me," he said. "Sunday night, going into Monday, where I kind of had a deadline in my mind, I was torn and I did not know really what I was going to do until I went to bed."

The Lakers, Hurley said, would have had to offer him a significant sum to leave the UConn program behind.

"To leave, there probably is [a number]," he said. "To leave a place at any moment in your life, to say that it's not a motivating factor ... the finances to leave a place is definitely a thing. To stay at a place, I don't think it is ever going to be a thing. To stay somewhere like UConn, it would never have been a financial thing.

"This wasn't like some pressure tactic to make me the highest-paid college coach. That was already done. But to leave a place that you feel the way we do and the family connection with my wife, my sons, my mother-in-law, my father ... I know how much it means to my dad to go to the Big East tournament and come to 10 UConn games a year at home, sitting courtside, when I'm coaching against Rick Pitino. To leave all of that behind, there probably is a number."

Hurley will return to a UConn team that has a chance to win its third consecutive national title, a feat that has not been achieved since John Wooden led UCLA to seven straight championships in the 1960s and 1970s. But, Hurley said, the Lakers' offer was tempting because of the history and prestige attached to the gig.

"It's something I wanted to explore," Hurley said. "The opportunity to potentially coach the Lakers and to coach one of the greatest players of all time and to coach one of the best players in the NBA in [Anthony Davis] and to lead such a storied franchise and to walk the sidelines where some of the greatest to ever to do it -- Pat Riley and Phil Jackson -- [coached]. It was something in my mind that I had to explore and consider and see what it looked like."

Hurley spoke to the media later Thursday at UConn's Werth Champions Center. He told reporters the offer from the Lakers was "obviously tempting," but there were too many reasons to stay with the Huskies.

"You think about the two places you are trying to choose between. You are coaching the back-to-back champs at UConn or the L.A. Lakers," Hurley said. "There aren't many coaches who had to make that choice between those two options for your career."