Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Facing Financial Crisis, Bob Hurley Says St. Anthony’s May Have to ‘Reinvent’ Itself a la Rival St. Patrick’s
After all the epic battles that St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s staged over the years across the New Jersey basketball scene, it would be more than ironic if St. Anthony’s now followed St. Patrick’s lead and transitioned from a Catholic school to a private one.
Yet if you listen to Bob Hurley as he attempts to save St. Anthony’s from its latest — and perhaps greatest — financial crisis, it sounds like that is a path he and the school are considering.
“We’re going to come up with a plan,” Hurley said during a recent interview with WFUV. “Will it be the plan to sustain it through whoever replaces me in the future? I don’t know about that. But I think we could probably reinvent ourselves somewhat like The Patrick School did and still be able to give an affordable education to a kid in the inner-city that stimulates them to be perhaps better than their counterparts.”
By way of a quick reminder, St. Pat’s was forced to close at the end of the 2011-12 school year when their funding was cut by the Archdiocese. The school restructured and became an independent private high school known as The Patrick School (although I and many others still call it St. Patrick’s.)
Now St. Anthony’s says it needs $10-$20 million or the doors will close after the 2016-17 school year. Meantime, the school is holding a massive fundraising dinner on Friday called “50 Years of Chasing Perfect: A Tribute to Coach Hurley.”
**Here’s the GoFundMe link to help the school.**
While The Patrick School gets some financial support from NBA alums Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, St. Anthony’s only NBA product at the moment is Kyle Anderson, who bought a table for Friday’s fundraiser but doesn’t make nearly the money that Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist do.
“We’re going to be open for the whole year and we’re going to try in January to decide where we are going,” Hurley said.
It’s hard to imagine St. Anthony’s without Hurley, the Naismith Hall of Fame coach who has been featured in a book (“The Miracle of St. Anthony”), a documentary (“The Street Stops Here”) and even on “60 Minutes.”
The numbers on Hurley are mind-boggling: 13 Tournament of Champions titles, eight unbeaten seasons (including last year) and a career record of 1,162-119 (Yes, the man is more than 1,000 games over .500.)
What can’t be found in all those numbers, of course, is what Hurley has done for the hundreds of kids who have played for him across the years. It his devotion to St. Anthony’s and to Jersey City that kept him from leaving for a college job when he could have.
In the mid-1980s, Hurley was offered a job on Pete Gillen’s staff at Xavier but ended up staying in Jersey City to coach his older son Bobby, who of course went on to lead Duke to two NCAA championships and is now the coach at Arizona State.
More recently, Hurley might have taken the Rutgers job after Mike Rice was fired, something he stated publicly at the time.
“After Mike Rice, if Rutgers had approached him more aggressively, he would have considered leaving,” Ben Gamble, who played basketball for Hurley and served as one of his assistants for 14 years, told Jerry Carino of The Asbury Park Press. “He would have taken Rutgers and probably would have had the boys (Bobby and Dan) come with him to set the foundation. That was the closest he ever came.”
Hurley, 69, never did leave Jersey City, where there is now a street named “Bob Hurley Way” that leads to the school. He cited legendary former Archbishop Molloy coach Jack Curran and others as his role models in that regard.
“Staying in high school seemed appropriate to me because Jack Curran did in New York City, Morgan Wootten did it [at DeMatha Catholic] in Washington D.C. and Warren Wolf, who’s the famous football coach from Brick, N.J., did it for a long time,” Hurley told WFUV. “My wife and I have lived in Jersey City our entire lives. It [leaving] could have been something that we gave some thought to years and years ago but when we look back we have absolutely no regrets. The relationships we’ve had with kids over the years have been tremendous. And the road not taken, we haven’t had too many conversations about what would’ve happened. I think what has happened has been spectacular and we have absolutely no regrets at all.”
Unlike Hurley, former St. Patrick’s coach Kevin Boyle did leave New Jersey, departing in 2011 to become the head coach at Montverde (FL) Academy, which he has turned into a national powerhouse that has featured NBA lottery picks Ben Simmons and D’Angelo Russell.
Ironically, on the same day as St. Anthony’s fundraiser, Boyle will be back home in the Garden State speaking at the Brayden Carr Foundation Coaches Clinic at Prudential Center. Boyle will speak along with Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, Manhattan coach Steve Masiello and legendary former Princeton coach Pete Carill.
Boyle and Hurley had many great battles over the years — most notably in a battle of undefeated teams in the unofficial national high school championship game in 2011 — with Boyle often depicted as wearing the black hat to Hurley’s white. But the truth wasn’t that simple and Boyle did as much for the kids at St. Pat’s as Hurley did for those at St. Anthony’s.
“It was a very storied [rivalry] and great games,” Boyle told me. “There was tremendous hype around St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s rivalry and if it’s not the best rivalry in New Jersey in my time being alive, then it’s at least arguably the best. It’s a shame that it happens with a lot of schools, especially the small Catholic schools that we’re seeing struggling financially.
“[St. Anthony’s] has such rich tradition in basketball, kind of like St. Pat’s. You never want to see those schools close and have to reinvent themselves. The Patrick School at least until this point has been able to survive it.”
Now St. Anthony’s may end up having to follow suit to stay afloat.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.