EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 29, 2012

A date with coaching legend Bob Hurley Sr.

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Bob Hurley Sr. is probably best known, among casual sports fans around the country, as the father of Bobby Hurley, the former love ‘em-or-hate ‘em point guard for two-time national champion Duke.

In basketball coaching circles, he’s a lot more than a famous dad.

Coach Hurley, who with his St. Anthony’s team from Jersey City, N.J. faced off with Central Catholic last night, might be the best basketball coach in the world.

Yes, the world.

He surpassed 1,000 wins in Feb. of 2011. His St. Anthony’s teams have won an amazing 26 state titles in 39 years. Last year’s team was named national champions by USA Today. More than 100 of his former players have played at the Division 1 level, including six from his 2007-08 team.

The retired probation officer is also one of three high school coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around — pro, college or high school,” said UMass Lowell men’s basketball coach and North Andover resident Greg Herenda, who is in his 30th year as a coach.

“Bob Hurley not only has one of the great minds of the game, but he has a special talent when it comes to motivating players. He is truly a coaching legend.”

Herenda is speaking from experience. His connection to Hurley is a deep one.

They both not only attended St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City (Hurley is 65, Herenda is 51), only a stone’s throw away from the Hudson River dividing New Jersey and Manhattan, but Herenda attended Hurley’s camp as a 13-year-old.

Hurley grew up idolizing another former St. Peter’s Prep great, George Blaney. Herenda later was an assistant coach for Blaney at Holy Cross and Seton Hall, where Hurley’s other son, Danny, played.

Hurley’s in the news because his St. Anthony’s team played and beat our highly touted Central Catholic team last night, in the “Shooting Touch Shootout” tournament at Emmanuel College.

Hurley brought his team to Boston as a favor to his friend who runs this tournament and the charity, which promotes basketball in areas of the country that can’t afford to set up their own programs.

He also has an affinity for Boston.

He grew up following the Celtics and then it grew from there.

“My wife and I love Boston,” said Hurley. “This would be the first place we would live if we weren’t in Jersey City. It’s a friendly city. It’s smaller than places like New York. I’ve been doing my reading about Whitey Bulger before we got here.

“I’ve always loved the Celtics and the way they played the game. It was team first, which is what every coach hopes for. I love the passion of Boston fans, too. I just love this city.”

But Jersey City is and always will be home.

“I remember moving to this Jersey City neighborhood, Greenville, as an eight-year-old and the neighbor had a hoop on his garage,” recalled Hurley. “They said I could shoot whenever I wanted. They probably regretted saying that because I was there for countless hours. I remember basketball giving me an identity at a young age.

“When I started coaching I always connected with the Jersey City kid who likes to play,” he said. “Kids can gain an identity out of sport. We’ve been able to send countless kids to college and broaden horizons. If it weren’t for hoops, they wouldn’t have had opportunity.”

As for Hurley’s current team, despite its 4-0 start heading into last night’s game, he says there should be an asterisk when people call his team the “defending national champs.”

“The last two years we had Kyle Anderson (now at UCLA), who could do everything well,” said Hurley. “We’re trying to take all of the things Kyle did well and share it among others. We’re still very inexperienced. It usually takes about 10 games to figure out what you’re good at. I’m still not sure about this group.”

Herenda smiled when he heard about Hurley’s assessment.

“That’s Coach Hurley,” said Herenda. “They’re probably the best around.”

Hurley often gets asked a few questions from the drive-by media (that’s me!).

One is usually about his famous son, who led Duke to two national titles before being a first-round pick. The other is “Why did you stay at St. Anthony’s and not go the big-time college route (he’s been offered interviews for several Division 1 jobs)?”

“I got married, started working and loved coaching,” said Hurley. “Uprooting my family along the way didn’t seem something appropriate. As my sons were growing up, and they were around my teams all of the time, they always talked about wanting to play at St. Anthony’s.

“I know a lot of coaches usually do it until their kids come through a program and then they call it quits. My sons (Bobby and Danny) were finished in 1991. I never gave quitting a second thought. Now I’m older, retired ... And honestly, I don’t know who would want me now.”

Honestly, I’m guessing about 200 of them, would be waiting with bated breath.

@text1_r:You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

Herenda on Hurley: He’s the best

Greg Herenda has known legendary St. Anthony’s coach Bob Hurley Sr. since the UMass Lowell coach was a middle school basketball player.

Herenda was asked, “What impresses you most about Coach Hurley?”

Here is his response:

“Love and dedication to the game. He, his wife and sons (URI assistant Bobby and URI head coach Danny) have truly dedicated their entire lives to the game of basketball. In return, they have a Hall of Fame coach, several national championships, a son that played in the NBA and another son that is a Division I coach. Not bad for a coach that started with no gym.”