That it was not unexpected did not make the news much easier to digest.
Wednesday was a sad day, for basketball, for education, and-in the words of those in the area who would know best-for New Jersey. The news came out in the afternoon that St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City would be closing at the end of this school year. (Numerous excellent stories came out about the news yesterday, such as this one here). Reports cluing in the school’s possible fate had been dropped for weeks, but the news was still a punch in the stomach for many.
While on its surface this would appear to some to have little to do with college basketball, anyone versed in the sport knows all about the school’s influence on the sport at all levels, and specifically that of Bob Hurley Sr., its longtime coach. Hurley won 28 New Jersey state championships at the school and was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame for all his success, and he’s one of the greatest coaches in the sport over the last 50 years, at any level.
Hurley also almost single-handedly kept St. Anthony’s open for years, and what he means to Jersey City is immeasurable. It’s well-known that the Catholic school served primarily youth coming from poor and poverty-stricken areas, and in his service to them Hurley was the ultimate educator, selflessly putting aside luxuries for himself to care for and provide guidance to our youth, even as he did it in hard-nosed, tough-love fashion.
To focus on the basketball aspect of St. Anthony’s in many ways doesn’t do it justice. This isn’t some barnstorming program of nationwide recruits run under a thin veil of being about education. The role St. Anthony’s played in educating and helping so many inner-city youth grow is the real loss here, even more than its famous basketball program. (Adrian Wojnarowski’s superb book about the program illustrated it better than we ever could.)
That isn’t to say the Friars weren’t talented or didn’t get good players-they were and they did. David Rivers, Terry Dehere and of course son Bobby Hurley are just some of those who went on to stellar college careers and played in the pros.
While more than 150 of Hurley’s players went on to receive college scholarships, though, many of them were more like a Josh Brown and Jerome Frink. Brown is a point guard at Temple, not a star but a tenacious defender and leader whose value is measured less in points than in everything else he does, while Frink was a hard-working power forward-type who recently concluded his college career at LIU by being named player of the year in the Northeast Conference.
Neither ever was going to be a one-and-done college player, and St. Anthony’s teams never were filled with such types. That never stopped Bob Hurley from coaching his teams up and his teams from winning. It also never stopped him from continuing to attempt to pull the best out of each of his players as people, even when there were surely easier paths available.
Hurley will no doubt have opportunities to continue coaching somewhere if he likes, and for the good of so many youth, one hopes he does. Whether he will or not is not known now, but we do know that St. Anthony’s will be missed.
- Recently dismissed as coach at Illinois, John Groce will now be the next coach at Akron. He replaces Keith Dambrot, who left for Duquesne after a highly successful tenure with the Zips. While the hiring of a recently fired coach might have “retread” written all over it to some, though, this pick makes perfect sense for Akron. Groce is very familiar with the Mid-American Conference, having coached at Ohio University from 2008-12, and he had big success there leading the Bobcats to NCAA tourney wins in 2010 and 2012, including a Sweet 16 run in 2012 where Ohio was a few missed free throws in regulation from knocking off top-seeded North Carolina and advancing to the Elite Eight.
- A couple more early entries to the NBA Draft: Arizona’s Kobi Simmons and Creighton’s Justin Patton both have declared and will be signing with an agent. Also among those who are testing the waters are St. Bonaventure guard Jaylen Adams, USC 6-foot-9 three-point bomber Bennie Boatwright and UCLA big Ike Anigbogu.
Enjoy your Thursday.