JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND –He had just finished the best acceptance speech among all the newest members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts Friday night, when Jersey City’s Bob Hurley stepped away from the podium and down the stairs off the stage at Symphony Hall.
As he was returning to his seat with his wife, Chris, and the rest of his family -- children and grandchildren --the 63-year-old legendary St. Anthony basketball coach was greeted by hugs from Oscar Robertson, Willis Reed, Billy Cunningham and John Stockton, all Hall of Famers like Hurley.
At that moment, Bob Hurley was indeed basketball royalty. He belonged. He was finally a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“To be perfectly honest, when it was first announced at the Final Four [in Indianapolis in April], it was very surreal and an out of body experience,” Hurley said at a Friday morning press conference at the Hall of Fame, prior to Friday night’s induction ceremonies. “I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like I belonged. But guys like Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone made me very comfortable over the last few days. It’s now a fraternity/sorority that I am part of and it’s amazing. I felt very comfortable with them.’’
When Hurley was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he became only the third high school coach to earn the honor. He was joined by legends like Pippen and Malone in this year’s class, along with the entire 1960 United States Olympic team and the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” that featured people like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, all of whom were in attendance Friday.
Hurley said that he remembered the first basketball tournament that he took a St. Anthony team to in 1972, a Christmas tourney at the now defunct Don Bosco Tech in Paterson.
“I was so impressed back then that they had a hospitality room, where after the game, I could get a sandwich and a beer,” Hurley said. “It’s hard to fathom that 38 years later, I’m here with the entire basketball community. It’s a little overwhelming.”
Hurley was presented by fellow Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached his son, Bobby, at Duke.
“I wish Mike could just take over now and make the speech for me, because I’m more nervous now that I’ve ever been,” Hurley said. “The world is totally different now.”
For more coverage of the historic event, check out next Sunday’s edition of the Jersey City Reporter and www.hudsonreporter.com for pictures and extensive reporting. – Jim Hague