Dan Hurley could become Lakers next coach, but history is stacked against college coaches who make leap to NBA



The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly pursuing current UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley for their vacant head coaching job. It’s shocking news considering former NBA player JJ Redick appeared like the favorite to land the gig after weeks of reports suggesting just that. But in a sudden turn of events, L.A. has set its sights on one of the best college coaches in the game, who is coming off back-to-back NCAA national championships with the Huskies.

It’s unclear if Hurley has any interest in leaving the Huskies, especially with a team that could very well be playing in another title game this upcoming April, and is currently ranked fifth in our college basketball rankings. But the Lakers are putting a lot of their energy into trying to pry Hurley away from UConn. If Hurley does make the leap to the NBA, he would be the 12th college coach in the past 30 years to do so, with the most recent being John Beilein in 2020, who jumped from Michigan to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

And while there has been a lengthy history of collegiate coaches making that leap to the professional ranks, that doesn’t always mean it pans out. Only two coaches over the past 30 years who went from college to the pros have a winning record — Billy Donovan and Brad Stevens — and neither have won an NBA championship. The combined winning record of the 11 coaches who made the leap is 1483-1797 (.452 winning percentage), showing that success at the collegiate level doesn’t always translate to the NBA. Hurley is certainly one of the most accomplished coaches on this list, but if he takes the Lakers job, he’ll have history stacked against him.

Here’s how things worked out for the previous 11 coaches who jumped from collegiate basketball to the NBA.

John Beilein, Michigan to Cleveland Cavaliers

Year of jump: 2020

NBA record: 14-40

Beilein didn’t last a full season with the Cavaliers, as reports of disconnect between him and the players began to swirl halfway into the season. Beilein’s knack for yelling as motivation didn’t resonate at the professional level, and at one point had to apologize to his players for saying they were “no longer playing as a bunch of thugs,” as he meant to use the word “slugs.” After 54 games, Beilein resigned from his post and has not received a head coaching gig again in the NBA. He was most recently a senior advisor for the Detroit Pistons for two season from 2021-2023, but in June 2023 he said he was “semi-retired” and that after turning 70 years old taking another head coaching opportunity would have to be a “very unique situation.”

Year of jump: 2015

NBA record: 399-319

Donovan is one of just two coaches on this list with a winning record, and the only one who is still a head coach in the NBA. After five seasons with the Thunder, in which Donovan went to the playoffs each season and took the team to the Western Conference finals in the first season, the two sides mutually parted ways after 2019-2020. Donovan did not want to be part of the rebuild the Thunder were planning on going through. Donovan has since been the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, where he hasn’t experienced as much success as his OKC days, but did sign an extension ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State to Chicago Bulls

Year of jump: 2015

NBA record: 115-155

Hoiberg spent four seasons at the helm of the Bulls after five successful seasons as the head coach of Iowa State. He took the Bulls to the playoffs just once, and there seemed to be friction between him and Jimmy Butler, whom he criticized for not coaching the team hard enough. Hoiberg had just one winning season, and after 24 games into his fourth season, the team fired him. He’s since moved back down to the collegiate level, where he’s the head coach of Nebraska.

Year of jump: 2013

NBA record: 354-282

Stevens is perhaps the most successful example of the collegiate-to-professional pipeline. After taking Butler to two Final Four appearances, he departed to coach the Celtics, where, during his eight seasons, he missed the playoffs just once, which was his first year there. He took the Celtics to three conference finals appearances, and routinely finished in the top 5 of Coach of the Year, though he never won it. Following the 2020-21 season, in which the Celtics lost in the first round, Stevens moved into a front office role for the team, where he became the president of basketball operations after Danny Ainge stepped down from the role. Stevens has not only made a successful transition from college to pro coach, but has also been amongst the top front office executives in the league since taking the job.

Reggie Theus, New Mexico State to Sacramento Kings

Year of jump: 2007

NBA record: 44-62

Theus spent a season and a half with the Kings after coaching New Mexico State to a WAC championship. In his first season he improved upon the team’s record, but after starting his second season 6-18, the Kings had decided they were ready to move on from him. Theus didn’t get another head coaching job in the NBA, but was an assistant coach for the Timberwolves for two seasons before going back to the college ranks. He’s now the head coach at Bethune-Cookman.

Year of jump: 2004

NBA record: 68-96

Montgomery has an illustrious college coaching career, highlighted by a Final Four appearance in 1998, Coach of the Year honors and being inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. But his move to the NBA was a short-lived one, and he didn’t experience a ton of success. Montgomery spent just two seasons with the Warriors, where he posted identical 34-48 records, and with no sign of improvement, Golden State gave him the boot. He returned to the collegiate level after his NBA stint, coaching University of California-Berkeley until he retired in 2014. 

Year of jump: 2000

NBA record: 19-63

Hamilton lasted just one season in the NBA after two successful tenures with Oklahoma State and Miami (Fl.). The Wizards’ 19 wins in 2000 were the fewest in their 24-year history — that is until this year’s team beat that benchmark with 15 wins. Hamilton has since moved back to the college level, where he’s been the head coach of Florida State since 2002. 

Year of jump: 2000

NBA record: 69-122

Another successful collegiate coach, Kruger could never gain his footing at the pro level. He spent two and a half seasons in charge of the Hawks, neither of which ended with winning records. 27 games into his third season, with the team working on an 11-16 record, he was fired. He spent a season as an assistant coach for the Knicks, then returned to the college level where he coached UNLV and Oklahoma until 2021 when he retired. 

Tim Floyd, Iowa State to Chicago Bulls

Year of jump: 1998

NBA record: 90-231

One of the few coaches on this list who got a second head coaching job in the NBA. Floyd was brought in after the Jordan-era Bulls were broken up, and what a tough task that must’ve been. It didn’t go well at all, as he totaled just 49 wins over four seasons. After that unsuccessful stint, he found himself as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, where he lasted one season. He was fired after that season but was rehired as an assistant coach the following year. He spent one season in that role before moving back to college where he coached USC and UTEP.

John Calipari, UMass to New Jersey Nets

Year of jump: 1996

NBA record: 72-112

Calipari is revered as one of the best college coaches ever, and at Kentucky, he churned out NBA-level talent nearly every season. But before he became a well-known name as Kentucky’s head coach, Calipari tested his abilities in the NBA, where he lasted just two and a half seasons at the helm of the Nets. He coached them to one postseason appearance, and 20 games into the third season, when the team started 3-17, the front office let him go. He obviously went on to have an extremely successful collegiate coaching career and is now set to embark on a new journey as the new head coach of Arkansas.

Year of jump: 1994

NBA record: 239-315

Carlesimo has had four different head coaching gigs in the NBA, but he had the most success with the Blazers. In the three seasons with Portland, he led them to the playoffs each time but failed to make it out of the first round, so he was fired. He then spent time as the Warriors head coach for three seasons, where the most noteworthy thing during his tenure was his own player — Latrell Sprewell — choking him out during practice. Carlesimo was fired after three seasons with the Warriors, then spent time as an assistant coach for several years before coaching the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder for two seasons and the Brooklyn Nets in 2012. 





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