The Hurley family of Jersey City has been an advertisement for basketball and family values. Twenty years ago Bob, then a young coach at St. Anthony's High, would set his son Bobby's crib at courtside while he put his players through their paces. Later Bobby and his younger brother, Danny, starred for their dad, helping bring national recognition to a school that doesn't even have a gymnasium. The boys' mother, Chris, has always been in the middle of the basketball stew, cheerleading, counseling, refereeing, organizing and, these days, banking. "The checks go right home to my mother," Bobby, a rookie making close to $3 million a year with the Sacramento Kings, said not long ago.
But good families suffer misfortune, too, and the Hurleys got a double dose last week. On Friday a reportedly troubled Danny, a starting point guard for Seton Hall, abruptly left the team. His departure was not explained—coach P.J. Carlesimo said that Danny, a junior, did not quit but "asked for some time off"—but it was not inexplicable. Danny, who was averaging only 3.5 points, possesses neither Bobby's quickness nor his tenacity and feel for the game. He had been frustrated by the booing he sometimes received at the Meadowlands, Seton Hall's home arena, saying at one point last season, "I can't take it anymore. I enjoy playing road games a hundred times more." Insiders said that the burden of trying to live up to his brother's accomplishments had begun to eat away at him.
Early Monday morning the Hurleys received even more jolting news. Almost an hour after the Kings lost 112-102 to the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento's Arco Arena, Bobby was thrown from his light truck in a two-vehicle collision. Later in the morning Bobby's condition at the University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento had been upgraded from critical to serious. However, his doctors said his injuries were life threatening. Hurley's most serious problem was a torn windpipe that had to be reattached during eight hours of surgery. Bobby also suffered two collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a compression fracture in the middle of his back and ligament damage to one of his knees.
As it happened, for perhaps the first time in his life Bobby was having as difficult a time on the basketball court as Danny. A six-foot point guard severely restrained by gravity, Bobby would have had a difficult adjustment to the NBA even without the pressure of a six-year, $16.2 million salary, the inflated expectations of the lowly Kings (who had made him the seventh pick of the 1993 draft) and his role as spokesman for a new line of sneakers. He was averaging 7.1 points and 6.1 assists and was only two of 16 from three-point range. On many occasions he had looked like the same sad-eyed kid who during a memorably bad 1990 NCAA championship game performance against UNLV—he finished with two points and five turnovers in a 103-73 Duke loss—left the court because he became physically ill. Though he had not been booed by the home crowd as Danny had been at the Meadowlands, neither had the King faithful been bending at the waist to give Bobby the we-are-not-worthy bow, as Duke's Cameron Crazies did last February when his number 11 jersey was retired.
December 20, 1993
Back in Jersey City, Bob and Chris saw most of Bobby's rookie frustrations on the satellite dish in their working-class brick row house. At about 1 a.m. on Monday they were awakened by two calls, one from Bobby's girlfriend, Ana Quinones, the other from King coach Garry St. Jean, informing them that their son was in critical condition. According to police Bobby's truck had been rammed on the driver's side, near the front, by a station wagon being operated without headlights at a speed of between 50 and 60 mph. The driver of the wagon, Daniel Wieland, 37, was in fair condition with a fractured leg.
The collision occurred as Bobby made a left turn at a stop sign, about a mile from the arena. The impact sent his truck at least 100 feet, knocking off the left front wheel and part of the axle. Bobby was thrown through the door on the driver's side and found in a drainage canal next to a field. He had been flung 40 feet. Police said the alcohol-blood levels were zero for both drivers.
According to police-Hurley had not been wearing a seat belt. "This [his condition] is remarkable, considering he was ejected from the vehicle," said Richard Marder, an orthopedic surgeon and the Kings' team doctor.
After news of the accident spread, Sacramento general manager Jerry Reynolds rushed to the hospital, as did Quinones and a handful of fans and teammates, including fellow rookie Mike Peplowski, who had come upon the accident scene and accompanied Bobby to the hospital. They were joined by the retired bishop of Sacramento, Father Francis A. Quinn, who, aware that Bobby had gone to a school called St. Anthony's, showed up still in pajamas. Many of them were there Monday morning when Bob and Chris arrived to see their son, who was responsive but unable to talk. Marder said it was too soon to tell if Hurley could return to basketball.
The same can be said for Danny. Back in Jersey City he and Bobby shared a bedroom, and Bob Sr. once referred to them as soul mates. However, no one except Danny will ever know how hard it is to live in the shadow of a classic overachiever like Bobby, a four-year Duke starter, a two-time NCAA champion and college basketball's alltime assist leader.
Nine days before the accident the brothers had been together in a typical Hurley basketball convergence. Danny watched Bobby play against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the afternoon, and Bobby watched Danny play against St. John's in the Garden that night. "This is a sweet week for me," Bobby had written a few days earlier in the journal that appears in the Sacramento Bee. "I can't wait to get home." On the last day of the Kings' eastern swing—the same day Danny left the Seton Hall team—Bob and Chris were among a crowd of Bobby rooters in Philadelphia who watched the Kings win 109-103.
Weeks earlier a bus trip to that game had been announced in the Jersey City paper, The Jersey Journal, with the notation: "Please call Chris Hurley."
One can only hope that there will be other Hurley bus trips and, for both sons, other games.