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.
Bob Hurley will have a hand in the Seton Hall coaching search, but he won’t be the school’s next head coach.
The legendary St. Anthony High School coach said he might speak with Seton Hall officials as soon as Saturday afternoon to offer counsel on whom they pick to replace Bobby Gonzalez, who was fired Wednesday after four tumultuous seasons.
“I’m going to talk to the people from Seton Hall but I see my role as a veteran coach in New Jersey just telling them what I think about the whole hiring situation, which really doesn’t include me,” Hurley said by phone Saturday afternoon before he planned to hop in his convertible and watch some AAU basketball games.
“They have reached out to me and I’m going talk to somebody perhaps later [Saturday]. I’m going to talk to them. I don’t know that in this point in my life it’s something I should do.”
Pat Hobbs, the Dean of the Seton Hall Law School, and Joe Quinlan, the school’s AD, are running the coaching search. Hurley has known Quinlan for years.
Hurley, 62, led St. Anthony to the Non-Public B state title game this year, where the Friars lost to Trenton Catholic. He has won 24 state championships, nine Tournament of Champions crowns and is closing in on 1,000 career victories. For the second year in a row, he is eligible for the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Hurley said has advised both Seton Hall and Rutgers in their last several coaching searches and that he was among a group of people who endorsed Gonzalez for the Seton Hall job four years ago.
“He was the best candidate,” Hurley said of Gonzalez.
Hurley said he had no particular agenda in terms of a hiring a new coach, but feels an obligation to Quinlan and the University because St. Anthony and Seton Hall are both part of the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Over the years I’ve always known the people from Seton Hall and we’re one of the schools in that Archdiocese,” he said.
St. Anthony has also sent a number of athletes to the South Orange school over the years, from John Valentin to Jerry Walker to Terry Dehere to Dan Hurley.
Hurley has no particular candidates in mind but said Seton Hall must find a coach on his way up, not on his way down.
He specifically mentioned former Rutgers coach Kevin Bannon as someone the school got “on the way down.”
“My advice for everybody is you gotta get somebody on the way up,” Hurley said. “Don’t get someone who’s been successful but you may be catching him on the way down. Kevin Bannon became a guy that Rutgers hired on the way down. He didn’t put in the same time at Rutgers that he had in Rider.”
Asked about potential candidates, Hurley pointed to Robert Morris coach Mike Rice as someone on the rise. Rice nearly led the No. 15 Colonials to an upset of No. 2 Villanova on Thursday but lost 73-70 in OT. Rice, 41, is a fiery personality and became apoplectic on national TV after several questionable calls were made down the stretch.
“Mike Rice, very simply, is on the way up. He’s a very intense guy,” Hurley said.
Hurley called Siena coach Fran McCaffery, 50, “relatively young” but admitted he didn’t know much about him.
As for Iona coach Kevin Willard, Hurley said, “That’s for them to figure out whether he’s coached long enough.”
Whoever gets the job will have some major cleaning up to do and must be prepared to make some hard decisions about the makeup of the current roster. It’s possible certain members of the current roster could also leave early or transfer.
“With this group at Seton Hall you gotta be ready to do some thinking because there’s some kids who probably won’t be back next year. You have to make some strong decisions about who’s gonna be back and eligible. Then you’ve got to be able to decide how many scholarships you want to give out and how many you want to keep,” he said.
Junior guard Jeremy Hazell said before the coaching change that he definitely planned to return for his senior year.
As for forward Herb Pope, who punched a Texas Tech player in the groin on national TV in the team’s finale in the opening round of the NIT, Hurley said that probably merited a suspension of some kind.
“Behavior like that probably warrants at least a suspension for a semester from basketball,” Hurley said. “Unexplained behavior like that is something you have to address.”
The Pope incident, combined with the recent arrests of former Seton Hall players Robert “Stix” Mitchell and Kelly Whitney and the November wrong-way driving incident with Keon Lawrence, raise serious questions about some of Gonzalez’s recruits.
“You can have a high maintenance player surrounded by solid kids and it could work but you can’t have more than that because you’re putting out too many fires,” Hurley said.
On the recruiting front, Hurley said Gonzalez recruited his “comfort zone,” using Dermon Player heavily in New York and relying on Scott Adubato, whom Hurley calls a friend, for New Jersey.
“Everybody is a product of their comfort zone and [Gonzalez’s] comfort zone was New York City,” Hurley said. “Dermon Player had more influence in New York. Scott Adubato, who is a good friend, was the Jersey recruiter.”
Still, Hurley pointed out that Seton Hall’s 1993 Big East championship team featured mainly players from New Jersey — Dehere, Jerry Walker, Bryan Caver, Luther Wright and others.
Whoever gets the Seton Hall job needs to establish strong ties with both Bob and Dan Hurley, the St. Benedict’s Prep coach, Bob Farrell at Seton Hall Prep, Kevin Boyle at St. Patrick and Damon Wright at Paterson Catholic, as well as the key AAU coaches in the state.
“If you’re Villanova or St. John’s or anybody in the Big East you gotta be able to come in here because there are so many good players in Jersey,” he said.
“If you’re an in-state school you have to be able to go into those schools because the talent in those schools is enough to get it done if you can keep your fair share of kids.”
RELATED CONTENT:**Enough was Enough: Gonzo Fired
**Former Seton Hall Player Whitney Arrested
**Seton Hall recruits up in the air.
**Stix Mitchell charged with robbery, kidnapping
**Pat Knight says father could coach again.
(Photo courtesy Star-Ledger)
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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.