Bobby Hurley quickly becomes popular hire at Arizona State

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The theater inside Arizona State's athletic complex was packed, television cameras everywhere. Even football coach Todd Graham and his staff showed up.

Bobby Hurley can draw a crowd. Arizona State wanted to make a splash with its next basketball coach, and so far it's done just that.

''Our charge was to go out and find the best and the right fit for this program,'' Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said Friday. ''We believe very, very strongly and very confidently that we have accomplished that mission.''

The 43-year-old coach inherits a team playing in a major conference and stuck in mediocrity.

''This is a destination job for me,'' said Hurley, who sat at the news conference between Anderson and Arizona State President Michael Crow. ''A place that I want to spend a lot of time and be a fixture in the community and be a big part of the success of this entire athletic department.''

He will have his work cut out for him.

Arizona State has enjoyed stretches of success, yet has not been able to sustain it. The Sun Devils have not won a conference regular-season title since the WAC in 1974-75 under coach Ned Wulk and have been to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons just twice, the last one in 1980-81.

Hurley succeeds Herb Sendek, who was respected at Arizona State and across the sport but couldn't win consistently. Arizona State reached the NCAA Tournament twice before he was fired in March after nine seasons as coach.

Hurley said Levi Watkins, who worked on his staff at Buffalo, will join him at Arizona State and former Sendek assistant Stan Johnson will remain with the program.

Hurley has proved himself at every level. He was a successful high school player under his father, Bob Hurley Sr., winning four state championships for a coach who is in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Hurley kept winning at Duke, where the fiery point guard went to the Final Four three times, won two national championships and was an All-American in 1993. He revived his NBA career after a horrific car accident, playing four more years.

Hurley paid his basketball dues when he returned from a stint in horse racing, working as a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers before joining brother Dan Hurley at Wagner and Rhode Island.

Once he became a head coach, Hurley won immediately. He led Buffalo to its first conference title and first NCAA Tournament in his second season as a coach.

His next task is to change the basketball culture at Arizona State and win over recruits.

''I think that I have a national name, have a name that people recognize,'' Hurley said. ''My career as a player in college athletics and winning championships opens the doors for me. My dad being the legendary high school coach that people know, I'd be able to pick up the phone and develop relationships with all the people I need to.''

Once Hurley gets in the door, he will try to bust it all the way open.

Though he may not have been the most physically gifted player, Hurley made up for it with a high basketball IQ that came from growing up around the game.

His dirt-under-the-nails work ethic wore down opponents. It also allowed him to recover from a car accident that nearly killed him and become an NBA player again.

''I have a blue-collar mentality because of my upbringing and nothing has ever come easy for me,'' Hurley said. ''People really always doubted my career as a player, really never expected me to take it as far as I took it. My expectations and what other people's expectations are are a little different, so hopefully we'll get on the same page and get that done.''

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