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.
Survive and Advance Has a Whole New Meaning This March for Bob Hurley and St. Anthony’s
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Survive and advance has taken on a whole new meaning for Bob Hurley and the St. Anthony’s Friars this March.
With the tiny Catholic school literally fighting to survive, every game in the New Jersey state tournament could be the legendary program’s last.
“Yeah, we mentioned it to each other, said this might be our last time together, period,” Howard-bound senior guard R.J. Cole told ZAGSBLOG after pouring in a team-high 26 points as St. Anthony’s knocked off Montclair Immaculate, 66-52, in the North Non-Public B quarterfinals before a packed house on Friday night. The Friars won despite 31 points from junior guard Jalen Carey, who is being courted by Seton Hall, UConn, Notre Dame and Kansas, among others.
“Next year the school might not be here,” Cole added of St. Anthony’s. “So we all had to go out with a chip on our shoulder and keep competing and win.”
As has been well-documented in the press and in the SHOWTIME Sports’ digital documentary Legacy: Bob Hurley, St. Anthony’s faces a financial crisis and may be forced to shudder its doors after this school year if it cannot raise the necessary funds.
“SHOWTIME is going to put on a fundraiser, it’s going to be a Sweet 16 [in New York on March 23],” Hurley said. “We have a Hall of Fame dinner for May 18th and we’re going to attempt to run some kind of celebrity basketball game in April. And some local businessmen here who are friends are going to give their restaurant to us for us to try to run another high-level event. So we’re going to try to run four things. You give it your best shot, we see where it goes and what the kids learn from this is, we tell them to fight for 32 minutes. We’ll fight the whole way and see if there is a future. If not, we walk away and say, we did everything we could.”
He added: “I think we’re about $450,000-$500,000 to get into the black for this year and then the Archdiocese is going to tell them our existing debt with them…We have to put a dent into that also, so the numbers are liquid right now.”
Brian Dailey is the SHOWTIME producer overseeing the documentary that is narrated by author Mark Kriegel, who attended the game. Dailey says there’s a real question whether St. Anthony’s will be open for the 2017-18 school year, when the legendary Hurley will be 70.
“To be totally honest with you, it’s 50-50 right now,” he said. “They had the meeting with the Diocese last week. The Diocese laid out a couple of goals that they want to see them hit by the beginning of April. If those goals aren’t hit, then it could very likely close.’
While he attempts to save the school in his capacity as school President, Hurley is also busy coaching his team in the state tournament.
A year ago, the Friars went undefeated en route to the program’s 13th New Jersey Tournament of Champions title.
This year, their longtime rival The Patrick School is the favorite to win the TOC, and the two programs could be headed for a collision on March 11 in the Non-Public B final. Still, both have some work to do.
Top-seeded St. Anthony’s will meet Morristown Beard on Monday, and then could face No. 2 Hudson Catholic and its Big Three of Louis King, Jahvon Quinerly and Luther Muhammad in the North B final on March 8 at Rutgers.
Hudson Catholic destroyed Queen of Peace, 99-36, on Friday night.
Hurley said he had nothing in his calendar book past Saturday, when he will attend a 4 p.m. Catholic mass with his wife, Chris, and then go to their favorite Italian restaurant, Presto’s, for a 5:30 dinner.
He does this every year: takes it game-by-game without writing future game dates in his calendar book.
“I totally believe that at this time of the year you prepare in advance with scouting and everything, you savor each day,” Hurley said. “This is the Jimmy Valvano survive and advance right now.”
Survive and advance applies to more than just the St. Anthony’s basketball team at this point.
It applies to the entire school — and quite possibly to Hurley’s legendary coaching career, too.
“I just hope the hope the school keeps going because St. Anthony’s is a tradition,” Cole said. “I mean, it holds history and I just want to see St. Anthony keep prospering.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd Like Zags on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.