Dan Hurley on UConn’s flight delays to Final Four: ‘That’s why God made caffeine’

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was the highlight of Thursday’s media festivities at the Men’s Final Four. Dan Hurley says he “ruminated, spiraled and had his head in his hands a lot” on Wednesday night when he was with his UConn team, waiting to take off for Phoenix. 

The Huskies, who were scheduled to take off at 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday evening from Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, were delayed for over seven hours due to mechanical issues with their original plane, and the flight crew assigned to UConn’s trip had gone over their maximum hours, per FAA guidelines. The new, smaller aircraft, which arrived from Cincinnati, was supposed to take off at 11:30 p.m. ET. Due to luggage loading and the de-icing process, that plane did not depart until 1:33 a.m. ET, with the team finally landing in Phoenix at 3:12 a.m. PT.

[UConn arrives in Arizona for Final Four after seven-hour flight delay]

“It was therapeutic to watch the de-icing,” Hurley said to a collective laughter in the press conference room. “There was a real mindful exercise from like, 11:30-1:45 on the tarmac. I got two hours of sleep on the plane and I got two at the hotel. That’s why God made caffeine.”

The NCAA handles travel arrangements for its teams to the Final Four, and while these airline issues are beyond their control, it plays right into Hurley’s “us against the world” mentality, which he has discussed with the media over the last two years.

As a result of the travel delays, UConn’s Thursday schedule was altered and players weren’t made available to the media. Hurley and his staff adjusted the team’s practice plan, and he said his team will take it easier Thursday night than they normally would. But, he also clarified that they can’t dwell on the reality of the situation. 

“Who doesn’t deal with problems with airlines? It’s something people deal with during the holidays,” Hurley said. “It sucked. But once you get past complaining and cursing and muttering, you don’t really deserve to show entitlement. We’re lucky to be here and lucky to compete in the Final Four.”

On the other side of Saturday’s national semifinal matchup between UConn and Alabama, Nate Oats sat down at State Farm Stadium and wanted to set the record straight.

“It wasn’t me. I didn’t send anybody over there to mess with the mechanics,” Alabama’s head coach said with a laugh when referring to UConn’s plane issues. “I did get a good night’s sleep last night, so that’s nice.

“I am glad I’m not the ops person for the University of Connecticut basketball team during this trip, that’s for sure. I’m sure Dan [Hurley] will be fired up and ready to go Saturday. It will be fun.” 

While Hurley’s team was late arriving to Phoenix, he cracked a joke of his own when talking about the other Final Four teams, who are spending time practicing at Arizona State University in Tempe, where his older brother Bobby is the head coach. 

“Him sabotaging the other teams at his site is going to give me a distinct advantage,” Hurley said.

The Huskies, who are the first men’s college basketball team to win 10 straight NCAA Tournament games by at least 13 points, will take on the Crimson Tide at 8:49 p.m. ET Saturday on TBS.

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