TEMPE, Ariz. — The countdown continues to the NCAA Men's Final Four returning to the Valley of the Sun! We are just 205 days away from the biggest event in college basketball and to help build excitement, the Phoenix Final Four Local Organizing Committee held a Final Four Fan Jam outside of Desert Financial Arena on ASU's Tempe campus on Wednesday.
Fans of all ages were able to take part in the pop-up event that will show up around the Valley over the coming months. It included a trailer where fans could practice their shooting, a reading corner, and ASU head men's basketball coach Bobby Hurley even made an appearance.
Just more than five months ago, Hurley was in Houston, watching his brother, Dan, lead the UConn Huskies to a national championship. Hurley said that was an incredible moment for him and his family.
"It was an out-of-body experience really to go through it and see Dan do it for a couple of weeks and win the games he was winning and how impressively he was doing it," Hurley said. "It’s life-changing. I think both of us know how much we invest in this and how hard it is to win at our level and it’s very rare that you get to the top of the mountain like that. There aren’t many coaches that win national championships, so for him to do it, it’s pretty special to our family."
Hurley knows what it is like to cut down the nets, as he won national championships in 1991 and 1992 as a player at Duke. But, Hurley said he could imagine a feeling that would top that.
"I would prefer to do it as a coach because I know what it feels like as a player to cut the nets down and I want my players to have that same feeling," Hurley said. "And that’s kind of the role you accept as a coach. You want the best for your guys and they put a lot of work into it, and you have a lot of demands and standards in your program, so you hope they get to a point where they get to experience something like that."
Hurley and the Sun Devils will hit the practice court for the first time ahead of their upcoming season in about two weeks. But, the team has been able to be together this summer, as they took a trip over to Europe in July and early August.
"It was a tremendous experience for the players," Hurley said. "The first night, we were on a boat on the River Seine and it was nighttime and the Eiffel Tower just lit up and the guys had their phones out and taking pictures. I’ve had several guys say 'Coach, thank you for this. I’m not sure I would have ever gotten to see some of the things that we saw.'"
Hurley added that the team saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, won a couple of basketball games, and even got to spend some time at the beach before returning home. All of this, Hurley said should help them hit the ground running when practice begins.
"We’re, I think, already ahead of the game," Hurley said. "And we’re about two weeks from starting practice now, so I haven’t really pushed the button this month to really ask for a ton. I’m trying to keep them fresh. And then put the foot on the gas pedal in a couple weeks here."
Hurley also addressed ASU's upcoming move from the Pac-12 to the Big XII and admitted he's had mixed emotions.
"Initially, you’re conflicted because of the experiences you’ve had in this league and how historic the Pac-12 is," Hurley said. "So, to have that fall apart, initially you’re like, wow, this is unfortunate, but at the same time, (I’m) very optimistic about what the move will mean to men’s basketball. Just with all the brands that are in the Big XII and what they’ve added, I think it could be pretty special, you know, from a basketball league standpoint for us."
The Sun Devils open their season on Nov. 8, when they play Mississippi State at the Barstool Sports Invitational in Chicago.