Buffalo hires former Duke star Bobby Hurley as coach
Make room, Mike Krzyzewski, Bobby Hurley's ready to give head-coaching a try.
Drawing upon his experience playing for Coach K at Duke, and with a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame coach for a father, Hurley decided he was ready to make a name for himself at the coaching level. That opportunity arrived Tuesday, when the 41-year-old accepted the offer from the University at Buffalo.
"I've seen a lot of success and I understand what it takes," Hurley said, standing on the court of Buffalo's Alumni Arena with the Bulls' logo flashing overhead on the scoreboard. "I just think the wealth of my basketball life has prepared me for this moment. Everything I did as a player - I was blessed to have a chance to play for some of the great coaches in the history of the game - has prepared me to go out on my own."
The chance comes after he spent the past three seasons working as an assistant under his brother Dan Hurley at Wagner for two seasons and then last year at Rhode Island.
At Buffalo, he replaces Reggie Witherspoon, who was abruptly fired two weeks ago after 14 seasons and following a 14-20 finish. Though the Bulls were competitive under Witherspoon, who posted four 20-win seasons, the Mid-American Conference program lacked the one thing Hurley is extremely familiar with - a taste of NCAA tournament experience.
The Bulls enjoyed four postseason appearances under Witherspoon: one NIT (2005) and CBI (2009) and two CollegeInsider.com berths (2011 and '12).
Hurley, a superstar high school guard while playing for his father, Bob Sr., in New Jersey, is best known for his playing days at Duke, where he established himself as one of the nation's top point guards. He won national titles in 1991 and `92, while leading the Blue Devils to three Final Four berths.
"At the end of the day, we were looking to do more than just make a splash," athletic director Danny White said. "It was about fit, and we kind of liked the idea of catching somebody on their way up. We feel like he's the next big star in college coaching. He's going to take our program to new heights."
Hurley's ties to the Blue Devils played a factor with White, whose father, Kevin White, is the AD at Duke.
The Bulls cupboard is far from bare. Hurley takes over a team that returns four starter, including forward Javon McCrea. Last season, the junior was the MAC's only player to rank among the top-three in conference in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage and blocked shots.
Hurley met with his players earlier in the day, and is eager to begin formulating a system that will be similar to the style he was accustomed to playing at Duke. There will be an emphasis on playing defense, while the offense will focus around the point guard.
And he doesn't expect experiencing a culture shock moving his wife and three children to Buffalo.
"I think the area fits my background, my upbringing very well," Hurley said. "I grew up in Jersey City, N.J., in kind of a blue-collar family. I think western New York has that blue-collar-mentality."
Hurley's father is the longtime coach at St. Anthony in Jersey City, a state and national powerhouse that Bobby and Dan both played for. While Bobby went on to play at Duke, Dan played in the Big East at Seton Hall. Dan, too, was a high school coach in New Jersey before leaving for Wagner in 2010. When he was hired, he added Bobby to his first staff immediately.
Last season, after two years with the Seahawks, Dan took the same position at Rhode Island. Bobby, after withdrawing from consideration to replace his brother at Wagner, followed Dan and took the assistant role with the Rams.
"The best experience that I had in basketball is the last three years working with my brother in building two programs," Hurley said. "The things that I've learned from him have put me in a position today that I'm ready to take the next step."
After college, Hurley was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the 1993 NBA draft. He went on to play five seasons in the NBA split between the Kings and the then-Vancouver Grizzlies.
Hurley's career, however, was cut short due to the lingering effects of the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a car crash during his rookie NBA season. Thrown from his truck, Hurley broke his ribs and shoulder, sustained a compressions fracture of his lower back, tore a tendon his right knee and his lung collapsed.
Hurley learned plenty about himself from that experience, and believes it will help him as a coach.
"My NBA career did not go anything like my amateur career did, so I kind of have a broad sense of what all players have gone through," Hurley said. "I understand what it's like to be the 10th man on a team. I understand what it's like to be a star on the team. I have a pretty good perspective when I go into a locker room and know what our players are dealing with on a daily basis."
After retiring, he became a racehorse owner and breeder before being hired as a scout by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2003.