When UConn center Adama Sanogo swished a deep jumper last Friday against Iona, Bill Murray celebrated as if he’d just completed a clutch strike in the 1990s bowling comedy Kingpin.
Murray, an Academy Award-nominated actor and legendary comedian, spent last weekend in Albany cheering on UConn, as the Huskies defeated Saint Mary’s to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament‘s Sweet 16. Murray’s son Luke has spent several years as an assistant coach with UConn, rejoining Danny Hurley after serving on his staff at Rhode Island and Wagner.
Throughout the weekend, Bill motivated UConn at the team hotel, as the Huskies advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.
“He did pick UConn in his bracket,” Luke told Sports Handle on Sunday evening. “My uncle Brian went to St. Mary’s and was cheering for St. Mary’s tonight. My dad definitely picked UConn; they sat on opposite sides. He sat behind the St. Mary’s bench and my dad was with the winners.
“I don’t think there were any real-money bets. I think gentlemen bets were the extent of it,” he added with a laugh.
At one point last week, the comedian jokingly asked a reporter from the Albany Times-Union if he would take a bet on the Huskies. When Murray emptied his pockets, he offered to bet $61 on UConn to defeat Iona.
A sports-crazed household
Known for his role as a groundskeeper in the 1980 golf comedy Caddyshack among other portrayals, Murray has been a fixture at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for years. He is also an ardent sports fan.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, Murray led the Wrigley Field crowd through a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Game 3 of the 2016 World Series, impersonating Daffy Duck. On another occasion, a seemingly ill Murray jokingly asked former Chicago Cubs infielder Aramis Ramirez to hit two home runs in a game to give him the “hope to continue to live.”
When it comes to college hoops, Murray was spotted in the crowd in Illinois’ memorable win over Arizona at the 2005 Elite Eight. Trailing 75-60 with four minutes left in regulation, Illinois stormed back with a furious 20-5 rally. When Deron Williams capped the rally with a 3-pointer from the right elbow, Murray held his hands on his head in incredulity. Luke did not attend the remarkable comeback, but his older brother Homer did.
The actor’s allegiance to Illinois led to a humorous exchange between Sanogo and Luke. Sanogo, who finished with 52 points and 21 rebounds in two games in Albany, did not fathom how Bill fervently supported the Huskies on the weekend.
“Your dad is an Illinois fan,” blurted Sanogo.
“He’s firmly entrenched with UConn now,” Luke retorted.
The actor’s love of sports has been passed down to Luke, one of his six sons. Growing up in the New York City area, Luke attended Michael Jordan’s famous 55-point outburst against the Knicks in 1995. Luke was also in attendance for another Knicks-Bulls game, best known for referee Hue Hollins “phantom call” against Scottie Pippen in the waning seconds. Pippen’s foul on Hubert Davis with 2.1 seconds left enabled the Knicks to capture the critical playoff win.
A budding assistant
Before coming to UConn, Luke served as an assistant at Louisville, where he helped assemble what was deemed a top 15 recruiting class. He also spent three seasons at Xavier, where the Musketeers built three straight nationally ranked recruiting classes. Luke has been ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 assistants under the age of 40 by ESPN and as one of the 40 most influential people in college basketball under 40 by The Athletic.
Asked if the possibility of becoming a Division I head coach would please his father, Luke responded, “It would probably serve as a real source of pride, but I really love being at UConn. Coach Hurley has been great to me. I’m deeply indebted to him.”
— Luke Murray (@CoachLukeMurray) September 16, 2022
Jordan Hawkins, a top UConn guard, highly praised Luke after the win over St. Mary’s. Luke’s expertise with analytics has allowed Hawkins to eschew low-percentage shots at times. At one point this season, Luke advised Hawkins to avoid certain mid-range jumpers after the Huskies guard averaged around 30% on such attempts over a three-game period.
“He’s one of the smartest basketball guys I’ve ever met,” Hawkins told Sports Handle.
As UConn moves to Las Vegas with its eye on advancing to the Final Four, a pending bill in the Connecticut legislature could prohibit public schools from certain types of partnerships with sports betting operators. While the bill still allows public universities to accept sponsorships from sportsbooks, operators would be banned from marketing directly to students.
With five of the tournament’s top 12 teams eliminated in the opening weekend, UConn has emerged as one of the favorites to win the national title. As of Tuesday morning, the Huskies had odds of +900 at FanDuel to win it all, fourth-best among the remaining 16 teams.