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.
For Dan Hurley, NCAA trip brings memories of brother’s wreck
By JANIE McCAULEYSACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Dan Hurley saw the Sacramento sign at the airport and the terrifying memories came flooding back.
Hurley’s last visit to California’s capital city came in 1993, when big brother Bobby — the former Duke star and then-NBA rookie with the Kings — fought for his life after a frightening car accident that the entire, close-knit basketball family realizes could have been far worse. Even fatal.
Bobby Hurley was lucky. He knows it. His brother knows it.
Now, the Hurleys will reconvene in Northern California in far happier times: Dan Hurley’s upstart Rhode Island squad is playing in the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Creighton in the Midwest Regional. The 11th-seeded Rams (24-9) are back on college basketball’s big stage for the first time in 18 years and riding an eight-game winning streak after capturing the Atlantic 10 tournament title.
Still, that night of Dec. 12, 1993, quickly came to mind for Dan Hurley when his team touched down from a cross-country flight at the Sacramento airport this week.
“To see Sacramento on that screen in the airport the other day was emotional. I’m going to keep it together up here, though,” he said Thursday, fighting emotions. “My last time here I was watching my brother cling to his life in a hospital room surrounded by his family.”
Bobby Hurley is now the head coach at Arizona State. On that night more than 23 years ago, he was just 22 and driving home from Arco Arena on a dark country road shortly after a loss with the Kings and not wearing his seat belt. The two-car collision sent him flying 100 feet into a ditch. He was fortunate teammate Mike Peplowski happened to be right behind him on the road and rushed to help.
Hurley suffered collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, a compression fracture in the lower back and a soft-tissue back injury.
“I really didn’t even think of it from that standpoint and how Dan felt, so it’s not surprising. He’s a very emotional person and we care about each other a great deal,” Bobby Hurley said by phone Thursday night upon arriving in Sacramento. “For me it’s just happiness to get a chance to watch Dan coach in the tournament and everything he’s done as a coach in his career and what he’s done at Rhode Island. … We both communicate so regularly about both our teams that I think we almost feel like we go through both seasons together with each other.”
The seventh pick in the ’93 NBA draft, the dazzling point guard started and played in just 19 games that season. He started only 43 more games in a disappointing NBA career that spanned only parts of five seasons largely because he was never quite the same after the accident.
It rocked him. His family, too. This will be Bobby Hurley’s first time seeing a basketball game back in Sacramento since the Kings traded him to Vancouver in February 1998.
“It was where I realized my dream,” he said. “I remember putting the jersey on and the exhilaration of that feeling and remember that second year after I’d put in so much work to get back on the court and to get out on the floor and play again and do what I love to do. The whole way the fans always supported me, so I always appreciated that. Yeah, I didn’t have the success that I had hoped for as an NBA player but that doesn’t take away from the positives. Two of my daughters were born here. I’ve got a lot of great reasons to love the area.”
He is eager to check out new Golden 1 Center — and to see all that his brother worked for to turn around a program get recognized.
“You could tell just how excited he was for his team, for his players,” Bobby Hurley said. “Our family, Dan and I both had a lot of success playing in the NCAAs and had great careers as players. You just hope to create some of those moments for your players.”
On Thursday, an eager Dan Hurley beat the moderator to the podium for his news conference.
“First time in 18 years,” the fifth-year coach said, grinning.
The Hurley boys followed their coaching father, Bob, into the business. Dan and Bobby cherish that they coached together at Wagner for a couple of years.
“Just amazing how it’s set up that we’re now out here,” Dan Hurley said.
For this family of basketball junkies, perhaps a Sacramento reunion might help push the bad memories further into the past.
“Kind of one-track minds there, not well-rounded people, unfortunately,” Dan Hurley cracked. “We’ve even dragged my mom into it. She was the scorekeeper.”
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 and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, 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.