SCOREBOARD 02-06-2011 A thousand ways to enjoy a victoryCoaching legend Hurley secures 1,000th career victory

When Bob Hurley started his now-legendary coaching career at St. Anthony High School in 1972, he could have never dreamed that he would be still on the Friars’ sidelines almost 40 years later to enjoy the 1,000th victory of his career.
“It’s a number you can only reach after you’re doing it for a very long time,” said Hurley, who became the fifth high school coach in the country to ever reach the incredible, impressive and improbable 1,000-win milestone by defeating St. Mary of Jersey City Wednesday afternoon. “And it’s a very long time. You need to have a family that can support your passion for the sport. You need very talented players. You need assistant coaches who are there all the time and a school administration that cares about the kids. You need to have that balance.”
It’s been a whirlwind year or so for Hurley and his family. You need a scorecard to keep up with everything that has taken place.
Let’s start the busy campaign last March, when a full-length documentary about Hurley and St. Anthony basketball, entitled “The Street Stops Here,” was broadcast nationally on PBS.
Exactly three days after the movie aired on public television, it was announced that Hurley had finally gained enough votes, attention, backing, what have you, to gain induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
On the same day that the Hall of Fame honor was announced in Indianapolis at the NCAA Final Four, Hurley’s younger son, Danny, was named the new head basketball coach at Wagner College, and it was revealed that Danny was bringing older brother Bobby along as an assistant.
Of course, Bobby Hurley is the more celebrated of the basketball playing brothers, having earned an All-American career at Duke University and a brief career in the NBA. Danny had carved his niche as one of the best high school coaches in New Jersey, coaching at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
Flash forward to August and the actual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, Mass. It was a surreal and astounding moment to see a lifelong high school basketball coach on the same stage with basketball royalty, having laughs with people like Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen.
You can add a little dash of the other awards that have been bestowed upon the Hurley family patriarch, like the Joe Lapchick Award from the New York Basketball Writers Association and later this year, the Morgan Wooten Award in Chicago, named after the long-time DeMatha Catholic head coach and fellow member of the 1,000-win club who Hurley always tried to emulate and follow.
Not to mention, the street where St. Anthony High School sits was renamed “Bob Hurley Way,” probably the greatest honor that could be given in Jersey City to a Jersey City lifer.
Now, here comes the 1,000th win.
“I would have liked to have spread it out a little,” Hurley said. “Sure, you’re comparing apples and oranges here, but everything happened in about a six-month period. It’s been overwhelming. It’s really been a remarkable year. I usually like doing things without being in the spotlight.”
There was a threat that the 1,000th win game might not be played because of the umpteenth winter storm the area has had to endure this year.
But St. Mary head coach Tom Lalicato understood the importance of getting the game in for the Friars, who needed to have 70 percent of their games played within the state of New Jersey in order to qualify for the upcoming NJSIAA state playoffs.
St. Joseph of Metuchen had already canceled on the Friars, citing the need to play a crucial league game first. The Friars are slated to face Friends Charter of Philadelphia on Sunday, which would have put them under the 70 percent total and rendered them ineligible for the state tourney.
“St. Mary’s was definitely going to play the game no matter what,” Hurley said. “Tommy Lalicato has been a good friend since he played for St. Mary’s. He understood the bind we were in to get the game in. He understood that it was a game that just had to be.”
Hurley was asked if he ever dreamed he could actually coach for 1,000 victories. Mind you, Hurley has only been on the losing side 110 times over those 40 years. His team has not lost a game in 16 tries this season, including two wins at the SNY Invitational last weekend over great New York teams like Mount Vernon and Boys & Girls High. The Friars came back from 12 points down in the title game against Boys & Girls to win, 43-38, their toughest test this season.
“I honestly thought that 1,000 was not attainable,” Hurley said. “I almost walked away in 2005 because I was stressed with doing the day-to-day stuff at my job [as the director of recreation in Jersey City]. As much as I loved being a coach, the days were filled with stress and it was hard to come to practice.”
But Hurley retired from that recreation position two years ago and it’s given the 63-year-old coach a new lease on life.
“I think the retirement thing has helped a great deal,” Hurley said. “All I do now is play with the baby [grandson Gabriel Ursic], read and work out, then play more with the baby. When I get to practice, I’m always in a good mood. I’m always loose and ready to go.”
It also helps that Hurley has a great team to work with – ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation by some polls – a team that is hard working, fun to watch, talented and extremely relaxed. Pressure doesn’t seem to faze these Friars.
“I think it helps that we have more parents involved with this team than we’ve had in the past,” Hurley said. “We have about five or six parents that are always there in the lobby, talking about the games. With most of these kids, I don’t need to be more than the basketball coach and that’s nice to have.”
Added Hurley, “When it comes to the day-in, day-out routine, this team is always there. We have a study hall that I monitor every day and I just bring my book and read while they’re doing their school work. I never have to look out for them or raise my voice. They’re a mature group.”
Never raising a voice? In a good mood? Bob Hurley? Can it be? He’s made a living out of being bombastic and extremely vocal, especially with his players and those wearing black and white striped shirts.
However, Hurley has been seen smiling more this season than any other. It might help that he has added players like North Bergen native Kyle Anderson to the roster. The former Paterson Catholic product transferred to St. Anthony when PC closed last June and his stock as a player skyrocketed over the weekend with two spectacular performances, earning the SNY Invitational’s Most Valuable Player award.
The Friars are doing everything right for yet another run at a possible state championship, which would be the 25th in Hurley’s career. If that happens next month, it would truly cap a year that is beyond comprehension. Some people dream years like this. Bob Hurley has lived it.

Jim Hague can be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group