Prep icon Hurley impacts countless lives with his old-school mentality
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Some 30 hours before he was formally inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (which should've happened a couple of years ago by the way), 63-year-old
"I always figured that if you can control this mayhem, anything else you do will be easy," said Hurley, shortly after ending a two-hour clinic for Springfield's youth at the Dunbar Community Center. "Organizing your clothes closet, going to the mall with your wife ... you know, all those other things that are not entirely pleasurable."
Hurley was smiling. Because for four decades this is
"What happened here today is that a hundred kids got a T-shirt and a ball, they ran around a little bit, blew off some steam, and -- who knows? -- maybe one of them, maybe more, will get inspired to do something with their life," Hurley said. "It's a lot better way to do things than throwing money at an AAU team or giving money to a street agent."
He pauses amid the din in the crowded gymnasium.
"See, these kids don't know me, so there's a built-in lack of control," Hurley said. "At home, they know if Coach Hurley blows the whistle we all better be quiet. But here ... they don't know what a manic I am."
Hurley says that reaction to the book was relatively tame, given the glimpse it gave into a world that even basketball people don't see much -- the private lives of young men at a formative age and the tensions that exist among them and the father (and mother) figures who are trying to guide them. "What it did was show people what it was like to play at St. Anthony's," Hurley said. "So if you decide to come to the school you know what you're getting into. If you don't like what's going on, well, take your child and go elsewhere."
Given the race to the top that most basketball coaches engage in, it's astounding that Hurley has never gone elsewhere. In the 1970s, when he was a young coach, he interviewed at Yale and might've considered an offer as an assistant, but it didn't come. In the 1980s, he all but accepted a job as
"I mean, they brought everything to it," said Hurley, smiling at the memory. "'Dad, we're in our formative years. Dad, how could you have us move when we're at this crucial age? Dad, you're never going to be home because you'll be out recruiting. Dad, we want to play for you at our school.'
"All in all," Hurley said, "it was a rout. I called Pete on Monday and told him I was staying."
Those sons, of course, are
As Hurley's teams kept winning state championships (he now has 24), he no doubt could've gotten the Rutgers job or the Seton Hall job or any one of a dozen others. But at that stage in his life it was about something else. "In the early 90s, I wanted to watch Bobby and Danny play ball in college," Hurley said. "It was a great time for me, coaching my team and watching my sons play. Then we hit the late 90s, and I'm getting older. We're starting to get real mileage on the vehicle. So I didn't want to move. And now? I'm 63. You
That's not true, for Hurley could still go in and turn around a program. He has always managed to change with the times. Early in his career he was influenced by
"I think it's very important for an older coach that your players don't see you doing the same stuff," Hurley said. "You don't want to play for the coach who's over there diagramming a play and saying, 'You know, we ran this in 1961 and it worked really well.' Kids don't know from 1961."
At the end of the day, though, there's a lot of 1961 in what Hurley does. The emphasis on fundamentals. The reliance on strict standards. The idea that one person with a whistle can make a profound difference in the lives of kids if he or she is steadfast.
"In a lot of places high school coaches have lost their influence, to AAU coaches, to other people," Wojnarowski said. "But not at St. Anthony's. Bob told me once, 'You know, there's two or three of me in every state.' I don't know about that, but he does exemplify the old-fashioned guy who drove the bus, taped the ankles, swept the floor before practice. The great thing about Bob getting into the Hall of Fame is that it validates the idea of being a high school coach."
For Bob Hurley, being a high school coach was always enough. He loves his home in Jersey City, looking over the water at Manhattan, and he loves that Chris is still the biggest fan of St. Anthony's basketball. He loves that his grandchildren live close to him. He loves that Danny and Bobby will now be working together at Wagner, Danny exacting what the father called "the middle child revenge and sending Bobby out on the road." He loves the fact that, on Sunday morning, hours after he shares the Hall of Fame stage with immortals like
And deep down inside, Bob Hurley still loves the fact that, in a few months, he will once again turn into a maniac. That's just the way it should be.