UConn graduate learned under Calhoun, Hurleys. Now he’s a trainer in Central Connecticut


Ben Wood has been in Hurley Orbit for a long time now, working for Dan Hurley and Bobby Hurley as they made their mark on the national stage.

Prior to that, however, Wood gained his first college basketball friends and mentors on the UConn staff in 2003-2012. There was Jim Calhoun, of course, throughout Wood’s time at Storrs as a student manager, and assistant coaches of varying ages and accomplishments – George Blaney, Karl Hobbs, Tom Moore, Glen Miller, many others.

Wood was particularly close to Patrick Sellers, with whom he is about to reunite.

Wood, a 2003 graduate of Nonnewaug High in Woodbury who went on to earn two degrees at UConn, quit his job as an assistant coach on Bobby Hurley’s team at Arizona State to become an assistant at Central Connecticut, who appointed Sellers his trainer in May.

“I was so excited for him, and as we talked a little more, he’s such a great guy in terms of personality, but also from a basketball standpoint,” said Wood. “With everything, we aligned. We kind of followed suit like we did at UConn. “

So Wood, 36, goes home. He also leaves a Pac-12 program that has grown to join a low-profile program seeking to regain a lost identity as a class of the Northeastern Conference.

“Whether it’s a higher or lower rung, people can determine it,” Wood said. “Working for Pat, being 30 minutes away from where my parents are, and I have a lot of friends and family in the state – too many positives not to pursue him. have the juice. I spoke to Bobby Hurley and he was totally okay, supportive, so it was a perfect time for everything.

Timber is used to being part of projects that require heavy lifting. He was part of Dan Hurley’s first staff in Rhode Island in 2012-13 as director of development, with Bobby as assistant coach. He then followed Bobby to Buffalo as COO, later becoming an assistant coach for the Bulls, and followed Bobby again to Arizona State in 2015.

“By being part of three reconstructions, you learn how to do it,” said Wood. “And now with Pat it’s going to be a similar mentality, what it takes to rebuild a program. I’m excited about it, having a bit of experience doing it. … Anytime you take charge of a program, the first two years are just crazy.

Who better than Wood to appreciate the freaks? He has worked with basketball characters who have fascinated our state, for different reasons at different times, since entering the UConn campus to study geography and chart a career in basketball.

Wood was on staff under Calhoun for the Huskies’ second and third national titles, Emeka Okafor’s team in 2004 and Kemba Walker’s team in 2011. In Rhode Island, he worked with both Hurleys. Imagine this meeting room, after practice or before the game. The Hurleys – we’ve seen it up close at Dan over the past three plus years – are as hectic and wild as it gets, tornadoes on the sidelines, especially charismatic and fiery outside of those two-hour windows.

“Those two guys were crazy,” Wood said with a laugh. “Danny would have a 5 hour energy shot before a game and Bobby would take down two Red Bulls in the coaches’ locker room. And these guys were putting in insane amounts of caffeine. Then their two families, I think, had to step in. “I know Bobby doesn’t do it anymore. I don’t think he’s even allowed to drink diet Coke anymore.”

“Their conduct is just different. Part of that energy came from trying to prove themselves. Now that they’ve easily proven themselves, I think they can be more retrospective and more empowering.

Dan Hurley brought UConn back to the NCAA tournament last season. Bobby Hurley, the playmaker of those 1990s Duke teams that UConn fans loved to hate, was kicked out of his first Pac-12 game in 2015 against rival Arizona, winning two technical fouls in 14 seconds. He also led the NCAA tournament appearances program in 2018 and 2019 and recorded three straight 20-game seasons before plunging last year to 11-14.

“He’s the best,” Wood said of Bobby. “He never makes the conversation about his experiences, his impact. You’re sitting in the room with, perhaps, the best point guard to ever play college basketball and debate the covers of ball screens. It was a very eye-opening experience with a humble, egoless guy. He is not in the limelight. He is extremely family oriented. It’s just a ton of fun.

“The good thing is that he was learning, I was learning, we were growing up together, learning to coach basketball at the same time. I can’t thank him enough. I mean, he gave me a career. I tried to work hard, give him everything I had, and he gave me everything.

Wood met his wife, Linsey, in Buffalo. Originally from Niagara Falls, an architect designed the Bulls’ new locker room. Now working remotely, she has the professional flexibility to join Wood as he crosses the country.

In general, isn’t it difficult to leave Arizona for Connecticut?

“Well, you ask that question when it’s 115 degrees,” Wood said. “I’m looking at a garden of dead grass, like ‘How do I fix this? “If you ask me in January …”

By then, Wood will be well on the way to the next rebuilding project – this time under the guidance of an old friend of Sellers, a Central graduate who was Howie Dickenman’s assistant in 1999-2003. The Blue Devils won the NEC and competed in the NCAA Tournament in 2000, 2002, and 2007.

However, the program has struggled recently. The CCSU has not had a winning season since 2010-11. The Blue Devils have won nine games combined in Dickenman’s last two years (2014-16) and nine combined games again in Donyell Marshall’s last two years (2019-21).

“I wanted to think outside the box, challenge myself a bit and working for Pat is going to be a home run,” said Wood. “Pat is part of that tradition in many ways, a former player who was there as an assistant during the glory years. I just think of Pat’s enthusiasm, his love of the game… he eats and sleeps at basketball. Call him now and he’ll have the NBA radio on. It’s things like that that I like. We talk every day for about an hour and talk about the program. Just by talking to Pat, I get juice every morning.

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