The long-awaited trip that Bob and Chris Hurley were going to take to Dublin, Ireland was going to have to wait about day or two.
“When I called my travel agent to tell him about the delay, I figured this was a pretty good excuse,” Hurley said Monday in a ballroom at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis, just after being introduced as one of the newest members of the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame. “I figured he would understand.”
Hurley, a lifelong Jersey City resident, is only one of three high school basketball coaches to ever be inducted in the history of the Hall of Fame. In each of the past two years, the legendary St. Anthony High School basketball coach had waited patiently for the call from the Hall of Fame after being named a finalist for induction, only to be disappointed when he didn’t get the nod.
“Nobody coaches for this. You coach for other reasons.” – Bob Hurley
With people like Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen and the entire 1992 United States Olympic team – called “The Dream Team” – all among the finalists this year, Hurley realistically didn’t think he had a chance.
However, a week ago Wednesday, Hurley received word that he had gained induction into the Hall, becoming the first-ever native of Jersey City to receive the grandiose honor and only the third from Hudson County, joining the late official David Walsh from Hoboken and former Boston Celtics coach and player Tom Heinsohn from Union City.
Hurley then had to keep his news a secret to everyone until the official announcement was made Monday at the press conference – but the news had been leaked out and was reported in several New Jersey websites and newspapers, including The Hudson Reporter newspaper chain’s website, www.hudsonreporter.com.
In announcing the class of inductees, Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said that people like Hurley were deserving of the honor.
“A lot of people have slipped through the cracks over the years, so we decided to increase the number of inductees in the class,” Colangelo said. “We’ll have more in the future as well.”
Hurley was inducted along with the 1992 Dream Team, the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, as well as individuals Malone, Pippen, women’s great Cynthia Cooper, Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as deceased players Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira.
The Class of 2010 will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Friday, Aug. 13.
“We’re glad to be inducting such a larger class,” Colangelo said.
Hurley became only the third boys’ high school coach to gain induction, joining Morgan Wooten of DeMatha Catholic in Washington, D.C. and the legendary Ernest “Prof” Blood, who set all kinds of winning records during his days at Passaic High School.
Won 984 games at St. Anthony
Hurley has won 984 games in his 36 seasons at St. Anthony, including a state-record 24 NJSIAA state championships, nine NJSIAA Tournament of Champions crowns, and three mythical national championships. Over his career, he has guided more than 150 of his former players to playing college basketball.
“I thought just receiving the nomination was tremendous, but this is very exciting,” Hurley said last week. “Other than my marriage, the birth of my children and grandchildren, this is the happiest moment of my life. It’s the biggest single thing to ever happen to me. This is the pinnacle of my career.”
The 62-year-old Hurley has never lived outside of his native Jersey City. He was born and raised in the Greenville section of the city, a product of a Jersey City police officer.
Hurley attended St. Peter’s Prep and later St. Peter’s College, but already had begun his coaching career while in college, first coaching a youth basketball team at St. Paul’s in Greenville and then later the underclass program at St. Anthony.
Hurley became the head coach at St. Anthony in 1973 and found instant success, leading the Friars to an undefeated NJSIAA Parochial C state championship that year. The winning simply continued and the legacy continued to grow.
Hurley has had chances to move on to the college ranks, much like his son Danny did at Wagner College last week.
“But I like Jersey City,” Hurley said. “I’ve lived there my whole life. It’s where I’m comfortable. I like where I live and where I’m at. I like the age group I work with, kids ages 14 to 18 years old. I can be who I am and not worry too much about screwing them up too much. I’ve been blessed to have had so many good players who played at the school.”
Six went on to NBA
Six of Hurley’s former players have gone on to the NBA, including his son Bobby and current Jersey City Board of Education member Terry Dehere.
Hurley said that he hadn’t had a chance to talk to many people from Jersey City, because the Hall of Fame imposed a decree of silence prior to the press conference. Then, there was the awaited but delayed trip to Ireland.
“I think when we get home, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Hurley said. “Everyone is going to have different reactions. I think the stories will be a little embellished by then. But it’s all positive. I think a lot of people are going to be excited.”
Just like they will be excited come August, when the official induction ceremony takes place.
Hurley had to pinch himself at the press conference, considering he was on the podium with greats like Pippen, Cynthia Cooper, Walt Bellamy and a certain favorite.
“I’m a big Boston Celtics fan and just love Larry Bird,” Hurley said. “How great was it that he was here?”
Bird was the representative of the “Dream Team” and was on hand for the announcement. But when reporters were put into another ballroom and the inductees were broken down to sit at different tables for questions from the reporters, there were more reporters waiting to speak to Hurley than Bird.
“You can’t even imagine this,” Hurley said. “Nobody coaches for this. You coach for other reasons.”
He added, “But it’s still so incredible that there are only 293 people in the Hall of Fame in over 100 years of basketball. Now that I’m in, it makes other high school coaches believe that there’s a chance. The door has been opened.”
And the doors in Springfield will be opened come August for Jersey City’s coaching legend.
To read more about Hurley and the Hall of Fame, see this week’s sports section, inside. Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. For more on Bob Hurley’s induction into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame, check Hague’s Scoreboard column in the sports section.