Dan Hurley discusses his previous interest in the Lakers job on 'The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz' Screen grab: ‘The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’

As this point, it’s almost become accepted as a fact that Dan Hurley’s negotiations with the Los Angeles Lakers was more of a leverage play than an actual part of the team’s coaching search.

Just don’t tell that to Hurley.

On Thursday, the UConn head coach appeared on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz for what marked his first public interview since turning down the Lakers to remain in Storrs, Connecticut. And after Jon “Stugotz” Weiner told Hurley that he now has a helluva recruiting pitch after spurning the Lakers (and Kentucky) to remain with the Huskies, the two-time national champion head coach took aim at such conspiracies.

“One of the worst takes I’ve ever heard is this was a leverage play by me to improve my situation at UConn,” Hurley said. “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 financial part in terms of salary has been done for a while. There’s some other parts stuff like NIL and staff salaries and some different things that I want adjusted that I’m not comfortable with.

“But the sense or the idea that this was some conspiracy to get me a sweeter deal at UConn, it’s lazy. It was truly a gut-wrenching decision for me. Sunday night going into Monday, where I had kind of a deadline in my mind, I was like torn and I didn’t know really what I was going to do until I went to bed.”

The idea that Hurley was using the Lakers’ job as leverage against UConn has been largely rooted in his sudden emergence as the frontrunner in what had already been a weeks-long search, as well as that it was ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski who broke the news. With Wojnarowski having previously written a book on Hurley’s father, Bob Hurley, many theorized that the ESPN insider was helping Dan leverage a better deal out of UConn, while also getting one over on his longtime reporting rival, Shams Charania.

Such theories were floated after Wojnarowski’s initial bombshell report and only became more pervasive after Hurley turned down the Lakers job to remain at UConn. It’s also worth noting that Hurley wasn’t the only one who potentially benefitted from the mutual interest, as some believe it may have helped Los Angeles in its negotiations with other candidates.

Regardless of the behind the scenes dealings, Hurley is returning to Storrs to try to lead the Huskies to a three-peat, while the Lakers now appear focused on their pursuit JJ Redick (as Charania had previously reported). We may never truly know whether leverage was a factor in the Lakers’ failed pursuit of Hurley, but the 51-year-old made a compelling case that if it was, it wasn’t on his end.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.