Bobby Hurley was admittedly apprehensive about ESPN’s magazine show “E:60” doing a feature length movie about his life, especially with the time frame of the filming.
“Just in terms of access and commitment,” said Hurley, the Arizona State head men’s basketball coach. “I was thinking in terms of beginning our season and what it was going to take, whether it would be a distraction or not.”
But once the former Duke All-American point guard got past the initial concerns, Hurley thought it might be a good idea to allow the feature to take place.
The movie, which is written and narrated by reporter Jeremy Schaap, began viewing on ESPN Tuesday night, but a special premiere viewing of the film took place Monday night at St. Peter’s University, with 200 or so avid followers from Hurley’s hometown in attendance, including his father, Hall of Fame coach Bob, mother Chris and sister Melissa.
Jerry Walker was also in attendance. Walker was Hurley’s teammate at St. Anthony High School, where Hurley’s father has amassed 28 New Jersey state championships, the latest of which came last month.
“He’s a Jersey City icon,” Walker said of his former teammate. “I love telling these types of story because it was a wonderful time in my life. We had a wonderful swag together. We had a chemistry that a lot of people don’t recognize. But doing this brought back so many great memories.”
The younger Hurley agreed to do the documentary because Schaap was involved.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Jeremy and his career,” said Hurley via a phone interview. He remained in Arizona for the premiere and had not seen the movie in its entirety before it aired. “Some of the things that Jeremy has accomplished over the years have been tremendous. Because it was him, I decided to give them the time and the access.”
Schaap had a mutual admiration of Hurley.
“I’ve always been interested in Bobby since his high school days,” Schaap said. “He’s only a couple of years younger than me, but I think he came to my attention when I was in college and my father (the late Dick Schaap) told me that Coach Mike Krzyzewski was excited because he just got the toughest guy he’d ever seen. Here’s a life that had so many ups and downs and so many challenges. We wanted to capture the richness and the texture of the Hurley story.”
The movie was the idea of director John Minton III, who had to pitch the idea to executive producer Andy Tennant.
Tennant, who was born in Jersey City and whose father lived in the town for decades, thought it was a great idea for “E:60.”
“I remember watching Bobby play in college and having this sense of pride that I was born in Jersey City and was from New Jersey,” Tennant said. “He’s emblematic of that toughness that comes from New Jersey. What happened to Bobby in his life is so poignant. We were passionate about this project. As we started filming, we saw the depth and breadth of this story. We knew once we started filming that we had something special. I have an incredible amount of pride in this project.”
Tennant thought the idea was so special that he decided to devote the full hour to Hurley and his story. Usually, the “E:60” magazine show features 20-minute segments on news breaking topics and features.
“It was a no-brainer to do the full hour on Bobby,” Tennant said. “It was tough to break this down to just 48 minutes.”
The movie traces Bobby Hurley’s life through the tough days in Jersey City, playing for his demanding father; the trials and tribulations of his younger brother, Dan, who is currently the head coach at Rhode Island; getting drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the NBA Draft and then the December, 1993 car crash that almost claimed Hurley’s life.
That part of the story is still very emotional to Hurley.
“I don’t like talking about it often,” Hurley said. “I knew it was going to have to happen, but it takes you back to such a hard time in my life. It had an impact on a lot of people, so it’s not easy to talk about it at all.”
The saga also traces Hurley’s post-professional career venture into thoroughbred horse racing, which failed, and then into college coaching with his brother, then on his own to the University of Buffalo and then Arizona State, where he just completed his first year.
“It is pretty humbling that they would want to do a movie about my life,” said Hurley, who was interviewed by Schaap, along with other prominent people in his life, like his father, mother, wife Leslie, Coach Krzyzewski, teammates at both St. Anthony and Duke and even two former mayors of Jersey City in Gerald McCann and Bret Schundler, who both attended the premiere.
“I think my story has been told many times in other venues,” Hurley said. “Perhaps there are new chapters written lately with what I’m doing now at Arizona State. But the majority of the piece is my upbringing, where I came from. I usually live in the moment, like what I’m doing right now. I’m just fully humbled that ESPN and ‘E:60’ felt it was important for my story to be told in a prime time shot. It’s a very humbling thing.”
“Bobby is a special person,” Schaap said. “It hasn’t been easy for Bobby Hurley. The ups and downs that he has endured makes the story interesting. I think his willingness to explore his emotions. Jersey City plays a big part. It’s a character. If you don’t understand Jersey City, then you don’t know Bobby Hurley. This is who he is. It’s been a pleasurable experience to spend time with these characters. It’s a real great story and I feel like I’ve been following him my whole life.”
The movie was a remarkable trip down memory lane, especially for someone who has known Bobby for practically his entire life, remembering him as an infant, recalling days when a 3-year-old Bobby would meander onto the floor at St. Anthony games to take shots at halftime, when the ball was practically bigger than him and he would draw laughter from the audience.
It was also an emotional journey back to a time in the late 1980s, when covering a St. Anthony basketball game was the biggest game in town, when the Friars were basically like the Beatles, drawing standing room audiences everywhere they played. It was a pleasure to witness a lot of those moments firsthand and now relive them in this movie.
And there was a sense of pride in 1991, when in Indianapolis, Duke shocked the world and won the NCAA championship, led by the play of Hurley. It was the last big event this reporter covered for the Hudson Dispatch, which met its demise less than a week later.
So this movie was a sentimental journey, most of which was witnessed firsthand. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the Hurley movie yet, do so immediately. It is a joy from start to finish, including a great segment near the end watching the Hurley brothers in action together on the coaching sidelines at Wagner a few years ago. There are classic moments throughout. This is one to record, save and watch over and over, because he’s one of us. Bobby Hurley is a Jersey City legend and one of our very own to cherish.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.