JERSEY CITY, N.J. –
Minutes prior to tip-off at the Golden Door Charter School, on the eve of the latest foray into history for Bob Hurley Sr., the legendary St. Anthony
coach indulged his pregame ritual of 39 years before a bunch of television cameras and camera phones, pushing a broom back and forth across the hardwood floor.
Hurley is a 2010 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. A bench boss with a resume so distinguished that Reebok produced special-edition sneakers last month commemorating all of his glorious accomplishments. Wednesday he became the 10th high school coach to win 1,000 games after his Friars outscored intra-city rival St. Mary's, 76-46.
Robert Hughes, of Dunbar (Fort Worth, Texas)
, is the all-time national leader with 1,333 wins. Morgan Wootten of DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
, also a Naismith Hall of Fame member, has 1,274 victories.
"It's a very difficult number to get to. You have to do this for a long time and be pretty good at it and get a lot of help along the way," Hurley said. "It's a wonderful accomplishment. We're very proud of this."
Outside of a few concessions to time, however, Hurley has remained steadfastly habitual in his business of building boys into men, of turning talented rosters into seemingly countless championship teams.
"He's gotten a little mellower. He's changed his offense to go with the kids in the school, but other than that nothing
has changed" said Chris Hurley, Bob's wife.
"Coach is just a humble, kindhearted guy," St. Anthony Athletic Director Sean Fallon said. "After all of these years, you would never be able to tell that he's a Hall of Fame coach. He's still driving around an old Toyota Camry."
After all these years, Bob Hurley, Sr.'s, mission on 8th Street remains unchanged. Roshown McLeod is forever grateful his mentor never left St. Anthony – a small, weathered Catholic school that sits blocks from the Holland Tunnel and, like most parochial schools, forever in financial peril – for the big time.
Known more as a former standout at Duke and first-round NBA selection, the current St. Benedict's Prep (Newark)
bench boss first entered St. Anthony with plans of playing baseball before a 5 1/2-inch growth spurt altered his athletic ambitions.
That and seeing Hurley, then a corrections officer in Jersey City, roll through his neighborhood.
"The type of guys I knew in the community, when he drove up the block – the thugs and the gang members – they ran when they would see him," McLeod recalled with a laugh. "That was intimidating when he'd come up with the white van and everyone would disperse."
McLeod fondly compared Hurley to his mother, a guiding light who mentored with tough love. However, he hated the hardwood at first and could never quite grasp his legendary coach's directives, so he invented excuses and skipped practices – until Hurley and his mother double-teamed him one day in his living room, forcing him back to basketball.
"It was the turning point of my life," McLeod said. "I just had to read the book and listen to the story."
Hurley's story has written chapters of redemption and salvation through the years, not to mention countless tales of new beginnings. After Paterson Catholic
shuttered its doors last spring, St. Anthony provided a fresh start for Myles Mack
, one of the nation's top point guards who joined Hurley months after his former school fell to the Friars in the 2010 NJSIAA Non-Public B playoffs.
"He's a great coach," said Mack, a 5-foot-10 point guard who will play at Rutgers. "I just wanted to get better and better every day and that's what I'm doing."
Countless other players have echoed the same sentiments. For as much as change is constant, so is Hurley's impact.
"I'm a 63 year old granddad now who grew up with all kinds of fire and vigor," Hurley said. "Society's changed, I've changed, but I don't think kids are really that different. I think kids want a chance to be successful.
"I don't think any kids want to come back to me 10 years from now and say, 'Coach, I wish you would have pushed me more, I would have been successful.' I just say to them now we're never going to have that conversation because I'm gonna push you. You'll look back and laugh at some of those moments and maybe not laugh at some of those moments."
Thirty-nine years later, Hurley's legacy includes countless Division I recruits, 10 New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles, three mythical national champions and a coaching blueprint for McLeod and his sons, Danny and Bobby – the head coach and assistant coach, respectively, at Wagner College – to follow.
Danny Hurley went 239-21 at St. Benedict's Prep before taking the Wagner post last spring and appointing Bobby as his top assistant. Although he kidded that he started coaching because "(Allen) Iverson had 39 on me when I was a senior at Seton Hall," he quickly noted the lessons learned from watching his father all these years.
"He does a great job of focusing on the present and current," Danny Hurley said. "The greatest thing about my dad is he thinks he's going to lose every game. He's always on his toes, he never gets caught off guard. He's always prepared."
Added longtime friend Tom Konchalski, editor of the New York-based High School Basketball Insider: "He's stayed the same. And his goal has been to change lives."
Everyone on hand Wednesday testified to this truth, from longtime fans to Fallon, who used to travel from neighboring Hoboken years ago just to see how Hurley ran a practice.
"The fact that he's been able to persevere, the school's had financial trouble – out of 38 years, probably all 38 of those years," Fallon said. "All the times he could have gone on to college, this has been his life's work. So this is the icing on the cake of his life's work."
Although he nearly retired a few years back, Hurley still sees himself adding to his legacy, thinking ahead to the seemingly imminent battle between his Friars, ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, and No. 1 St. Patrick (Elizabeth)
in next month's Non-Public B state playoffs and even win No. 1,100.
"There is no replacing this in my life," Hurley said. "I've spent a lot of time with my family, I'm retired now. These kids are really good kids. To a certain extent, I have a chance to maybe have some effect in their lives and that's very rewarding.
"I'm not going anywhere and the school hopefully isn't going anywhere. Certainly an event like this may draw some attention to our school and from this it will draw attention to the good work we do here in addition to just winning basketball games."