As the wife of a Division I college basketball coach, Andrea Hurley long avoided the significant others of her husband’s competitors.
“When you play somebody, they are your enemy,” Andrea, who is married to UConn head coach Danny Hurley, told The Post.
“It’s so easy to not like your opponent’s wife. Their team can cause you major anxiety — especially if you lose, it can turn your household’s mood to s – – t.”
That changed a few years ago when she met Nicole Kellogg, whose husband, Derek, was then coaching at UMass. (At the time, Danny was at the University of Rhode Island, making the two conference rivals.)
The two women became fast friends, and Hurley realized her “enemies” could be allies and resources.
“We’re all in the same boat,” said Andrea, 44. “Coaching is such a brutal, cut-throat job, and I had so many questions” — about things like how to approach team losses, dealing with nasty fans on social media and acting as a second mother to young players. “Nicole said to me, ‘We need to start a podcast.’ I said, ‘That would be fun! What the hell is a podcast?’ ”
With her pal’s encouragement, in February Andrea launched “Ball is Wife,” a weekly iHeart Radio podcast that offers an unvarnished look at what it’s like to be married to sports. Her first guest was her hubby, and they rehashed fights over long work hours and how she humanizes him to his players who, he admitted, see him as an intense “cyborg.” According to Andrea, no topic is off-limits — even if it’s embarrassing.
She told The Post how tensions in her household are running high right now, with every game a must-win as UConn is on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament. Andrea had a near meltdown recently when her husband broke his ritual of dressing at the arena and came home instead to change.
“I slid down the door, and I was shaking,” she said. “And then I started to laugh, thinking, ‘Is Mickie K [the wife of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski] sliding onto the floor after her husband leaves for a game?’ I need to know these things.”
On deck for future podcasts are Kathy Auriemma, the wife of UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma — “Kathy’s from Philly and curses a lot,” Andrea teased — as well as Pat Calhoun, whose husband is former UConn men’s coach Jim Calhoun, and even Andrea’s mother-in-law, Christine Hurley, herself a sports wife.
She hopes to interview spouses of pro players; plus college hoops “matriarchs” such as Mickie K and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s better half, Juli, who taught her by example that hoop wives don’t have to be “wallflowers and sit around.”
She said the show will appeal to anyone involved in sports or coaching at any level and it won’t just be wives. The door is open to husbands as well.
Even though hers is a hoops household — her youngest son, Andrew, is a walk-on at UConn — she has “zero interest in the game. It’s like asking my husband to learn to knit. It’s just not going to happen.”
But she married into one of basketball’s most high-profile dynasties. Her father-in-law is Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, who spent decades at now shuttered St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, and her brother-in-law is former Duke star and current coach of Arizona State, Bobby Hurley. She met Danny while attending Seton Hall, married at 20 and learned early on that her life would be full of sacrifices.
She gave birth to the first of her two children, son Danny, when she was 22. Her husband, then an assistant at Rutgers, was scheduled to be in Croatia for a recruiting trip.
“He was leaving on July 5 and little Danny was due July 7, so we had a little problem,” said Andrea. “[Then head coach Kevin Bannon’s wife] Cindy Bannon told me to drink two bottles of castor oil and go for a walk around the block. She said, ‘I guarantee you’ll go into labor.’ Well, don’t ever f – – king do that. It was the most horrible experience of my life. But the baby was born on July 1 and at least his dad was there.”
She also doesn’t get involved in her husband’s business. Andrea said she has heard stories about wives of other head coaches who harangue assistant coaches over play calls or decisions. “It blows my doors off when I hear that,” she said.
There are plenty of joys. “The players are honestly my favorite part. They’re other people’s kids, and they are away from home, so they need to know that someone is there for them,” said Andrea, who bakes cupcakes for players’ birthdays.
And the stress is worth it when Mother’s Day rolls around. “I get texts from all the previous players,” Andrea said, “and I’m literally crying all day because it’s so insane that these kids think to text you.”