Bob Hurley did not become the legendary coach of Jersey City’s powerhouse St. Anthony High School basketball team overnight. Nor was there an immediate path to his current enshrinement in the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame.
Hurley and four other current Hall of Famers shared their life experiences leading up to their current success with top student-athletes from several Hudson County high schools at the second annual Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame Outreach Luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Hudson County Parks Administration office in Lincoln Park in Jersey City.
Hurley, who coached his teams to 24 state championships and over 950 wins as New Jersey’s all-time winning high school basketball coach, recalled being no older than the athletes he was addressing when he discovered his vocation in 1965 as an 18-year-old having to supervise his younger brother’s grammar school basketball team.
“I was watching practice and five minutes into … watching them practice, I knew I had to get off this seat and organize this practice,” said Hurley, who was being filmed by a CBS-TV camera crew for an upcoming special.
The luncheon was organized by the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame as a prelude to the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner on March 26 (see sidebar for list of inductees).
Emceeing the luncheon was longtime Hudson Reporter staff writer Jim Hague.
Joining Hurley was West New York Mayor Sal Vega, a standout track and field performer at Memorial High School and later the University of Tennessee; Ed Stinson, long-time football coach at Hoboken High and currently at Queen of Peace in North Arlington; Maria Nolan, the New Jersey all-time leader in coaching victories in girls’ volleyball, who coached at Secaucus High School and now coach at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, and Bob Fazio, the assistant superintendent of schools in Union City, who was a standout basketball player at Emerson and later St. Peter’s College.
Sports greats speak
Before “running” entered his vocabulary as a political figure, Silverio “Sal” Vega become acquainted literally with a life of running when the cross-country coach at Memorial High School introduced him to the sport in his freshman year. Vega said this is where he found his calling as an athlete. He described himself as struggling to be better at games than “even some girls” living on his block. He prayed to God to be good at sports.
“By the time, I ran cross country and by the time I ran indoor track, I knew God had answered my prayers,” Vega said.
“I believe that success is a choice.” - Ed Stinson
“My message to you today is if you work hard, you can turn things around, but you just have to persevere,” said Nolan, who has won 16 state titles in girls’ volleyball.
Stinson, who won six state titles as a football coach for nearly 30 years, laid out his longtime philosophy for his accomplishments.
“I believe that success is a choice,” Stinson said, “and I believe that success is simple. And I don’t mean simple in that it is easy to accomplish, but simple in that a driven work ethic is common from one successful athlete to another.”
Fazio described himself self-deprecatingly as an “average” athlete who claimed he did not belong in the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame but got there because he understood something beyond athletic skills.
“If you work hard, only good things will happen,” Fazio said. “Stay the course and make the right decisions.”
Students listen and learn
The lessons imparted by the guest speakers resonated with the student-athletes in attendance from at least 10 different area high schools.
Jaheed Williams, a senior at Jersey City’s Lincoln High School and a star in track and field, said, “All the speakers were wonderful, and inspired me to work hard at my sport and to push harder in everything I do.”
Cynthia Carralero, a senior at West New York’s Memorial High School and an all-county athlete in soccer and basketball, said she would like to come back after graduation and coach basketball at her high school. Carralero also sees herself talking to future athletes, as she was inspired by the guest speakers.
“I would teach them to have a big heart and not let anything hold you back,” Carralero said.
The 19th Annual Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at the Casino in the Park in Jersey City’s Lincoln Park on Thursday, March 26, beginning at 7 p.m.
The Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame 2009 inductees are as follows:
• Emile Griffith (1960s and ’70s boxer who lived in Weehawken and Jersey City)
• Jeff Bittiger (1980s Secaucus High pitcher, played for Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins)
• Alex Stencil (Bayonne native and two-time All-American in football and track and Arizona State University)
• Jimmy Dupree (Jersey City resident, light-heavyweight boxing contender)
• Bill and Ken Frank (Snyder High graduates, 500-win coaches in Toms River)
• John Barone (Hoboken High and Monmouth University basketball player, North Bergen High coach)
• Connie Gallagher (Bayonne High and St. Peter's College soccer player, St. Peter's Prep and Bayonne coach)
• Krissy Kutt and Alice Burgos (three-sport stars at Harrison High)
• Michael Rusek, Sr. (former Kearny High soccer coach)
• Eddie Connors (North Bergen High graduate, played in the Boston Red Sox system)
• Al Adams (Jersey City native, track and field star at Villanova University)
• Thornton Smith (Dickinson High track star, Raritan High School coach)
• Ted Klaube (Guttenberg native, football star at North Bergen High and the University of Maryland)
• Paul Conway (Holy Family Academy and St. Michael's of Union City tennis coach)
• Tommy Downes (Jersey City native, prominent marathon runner)
• Harry Massey (one of the first African-American football coaches in Hudson County)
• Charlie Dolan, the long-time organizer of Kearny's AAU basketball program, will also receive the Marty Seglio Memorial Community Service Award. – Ricardo Kaulessar
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.