Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Ties That Bind

It’s been a banner few days for the Hurley family. First, the stellar PBS documentary “The Street Stops Here” profiled the great work done by legendary St. Anthony’s (Jersey City, N.J.) coach Bob Hurley Sr. Then, on the same day Hurley Sr. was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, youngest son Dan was named coach at Wagner and oldest son Bobby’s former school, Duke, won the national title.

The elder Hurley is known for his hard-line coaching methods. It’s the only way he can keep his mostly impoverished players from falling victim to the temptations of the street corners. But Hurley Sr. also is an equal-opportunity browbeater. Bobby and Dan both played under their father at St. Anthony’s, and the sons have spoken about how they got worse treatment on the court because Hurley Sr. wanted no accusations of nepotism.

When Bobby was a senior and Danny a junior in 1989, St. Anthony’s went 32-0 and claimed its fourth straight state championship. The Hurley boys wouldn’t share a court again until an NCAA tournament regional semifinal in 1992 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.

This time, the brothers would be on opposite sides, a conundrum Hurley Sr. told the press was like “an emotional nightmare.” Bobby’s Duke team was the defending national champion and the heavy favorite to repeat. Danny was the backup point guard for Seton Hall, which finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big East that season. The Pirates’ main offensive weapons were Terry Dehere and Jerry Walker, who both played with the Hurleys on that 1989 championship team at St. Anthony’s.

The matchup between brothers didn’t begin in earnest until Dan checked into the game with about 11 minutes left in the first half. The players are a mirror-image of each other: Bobby a righty, Dan a lefty, same gym-rat, sun-deprived skin and sunken eyes, both stood at ease with hands on their hips and heads cocked to the side.

Dan’s first pass went to Walker, who got free under the basket for an easy lay-in that cut Duke’s lead to 18-14. Bobby responded in kind with spectacular assists to Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. Then with 8 minutes remaining before halftime, Bobby broke free of Dan’s defense by driving to right, then stopping on a dime with a behind-the-back dribble that set up a long jumper over his brother.

It was the only field goal scored by the Hurleys when guarding each other. Like when Serena and Venus Williams meet up at a tennis tournament, the siblings didn’t have great games to match the breathless press coverage. Bobby did have seven assists, including a dexterous feed to Brian Davis at the end of the first half that gave Duke a 38-32 advantage. Otherwise, it was a forgettable game for Bobby as the Blue Devils held off the pesky Pirates, 81-69: 39 minutes, 2-7 from the field, 0-2 on the free-throw line, four points and six turnovers. Dan played 18 minutes, missing all four shots he took, and notched one assist and one steal. According to media accounts of the game, Dan also had to endure chants of “Our Hurley’s better” from the Duke faithful.

The Blue Devils went on to claim another championship. Much can be said about Bobby Hurley’s whiny countenance, but the dude was a winner. From 1985 to1992, Bobby won four high school and two college titles, also getting to the NCAA championship game in 1990. Questions about his ability to play in the NBA were never answered because his career was severely hampered by a car wreck in his rookie season. Bobby ended up playing 269 games over five seasons, averaging 3.8 points and 3.3 assists per game.

It was hard for Dan to play under the shadow cast by his older brother. He became a starter at Seton Hall in 1993 but suffered bouts of depression and took a long leave of absence from the Pirates before finishing his career.

The game was too entrenched in the Hurley DNA for Dan to leave basketball behind. He hooked on as an assistant at Rutgers before cutting into Hurley Sr.’s territory as coach of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. There is talk that Dan will bring in Bobby as an assistant in his new job at Wagner.

As a high school coach, Dan went 223-21. Not too shabby, but it’s a far cry from the 984 victories and 24 state titles won by Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony’s. There’s a great scene in “The Street Stops Here” when Hurley Sr. brings his team to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the father stops to examine an exhibit honoring Bobby as the NCAA career leader in assists. Soon, Bob Hurley Sr. will have his own achievements honored in Springfield, Mass.


  1. Stellar work my man. You really got all these games on tape? In a few years, I'm going to have to send my boys up there to get a formal education focused on the great ballers of the late 20th century. This is probably on your list, but you gotta do a review of the 1995 Randolph Childress ACC tourney. I haven't seen the footage in years, but it still sticks out in my mind as the greatest single performance I've witnessed.

  2. I attended an ACC school, so my hatred of both Duke and UNC is well-earned (and required as part of admission). But I'll never forget seeing Bobby Hurley play live. Fast, fast, fast and eyes everywhere. From that point on, I kinda rooted for him, and was sad to hear about the car wreck. Even sadder that he worked so hard to get back in the NBA and it never panned out.
    It was rumored that before his rookie year, in camps the only person who could keep Bobby in front of him was Michael Jordan (I think SI told me that).