Long before Dan Hurley was the head coach of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team, he was a high school basketball star for one of the sport’s most successful coaches; his own father.
Hurley played high school basketball for Bob Hurley Sr., the head basketball coach and school president of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. Hurley Sr. has been at the helm since 1972. In 45 years as head coach, Hurley Sr. has led the Friars to 28 New Jersey State Championships and four National Championships. He has also compiled over 1,000 career wins and is one of just three high school basketball coaches to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. To most people Hurley Sr. is a legend, but to Dan Hurley he is dad.
“It was amazing,” Dan Hurley said about growing up as the son of Bob Hurley Sr. “It was our dream growing up, for me and my brother, to play ball for our father. All these great players had come through the program, a national program. And now when it was your chance to play in it you didn’t want to let down the brand.”
As Dan Hurley is currently moving his Rhody Rams toward new heights in Kingston, Rhode Island, his dad is facing some serious lows back home in Jersey City. St. Anthony High School is on the verge of being shut down. The school is in major financial trouble and is currently $1.7 million in debt.
Time is running short for Hurley Sr. and the St. Anthony’s community. After fundraising all year, if the school cannot pay back the diocese it will have to shut their doors at the end of the 2017 school year. Although the facts and statistics show it is going to be hard to keep St. Anthony’s open, Hurley Sr. provides a light at the end of the tunnel.
Hurley Sr. is known for his aggressive, hard-nosed and intense defensive coaching style. But to the people around him, he is just passionate about what he does. His main goal is to turn his players into better overall people. “He has an obvious passion for sports,” Hurley said about his father.
“He has a passion for teaching, educating and developing young people. It wasn’t ego. My father could have coached wherever he wanted to. I think he understands the power and impact that a great teacher, guidance counselor or coach can have on a kid’s life.”
The St. Anthony’s community sees the same qualities in Hurley Sr. that his son sees in him. “Coach Hurley is incredible,” St. Anthony’s Director of Development Jill Cypher said. “He is just a beast. He handles life the same way he handles life on the basketball court, with intensity and passion.”
Perhaps now more than ever, St. Anthony’s needs a strong leader like Hurley Sr. At age 69, when most people are thinking about retirement and slowing down, Hurley Sr. is just starting up. He does not collect a salary for either position as head basketball coach or president. For the high school right now it is just about seeing another day. “We have to push to stay alive,” Cypher said. “We are coming up on the 11th hour.”
Hurley Sr.’s daughter, Melissa, started a GoFundMe account to raise money online, but that has only raised just over $44 thousand. The school has received other donations through events and other mediums, but they still need more. “They need money,” Dan Hurley said. “Money allows you to hire better people, run a better organization and enhance the organization.”
The school has to pay the diocese $1.2 million and then another $500,000 has to be paid by September. This, however, will only allow the school to stay open another year. St. Anthony’s will have to fundraise over the summer and into next year to help keep the school open for another year.
Dan Hurley said that the timing of Rhode Island’s Atlantic 10 tournament win and trip to the NCAA tournament was perfect in terms of shining a light on the situations his alma mater is facing. “In every article or interview I have been asked about it,” Hurley said. “Whether on radio or TV. There are a lot of great people in the media that have tried to tell the story and care about the story and understand my father’s life’s work, which is that school. They try to bring awareness to that.”
The future of St. Anthony High School remains uncertain. Rhode Island’s Hurley said that the situation facing the school is a challenge that schools across the country are facing. “It’s just the reality of Catholic schools in the inner-city,” Hurley said. “They are closing across the country and it is a huge problem. Hall of Fame, legendary head coach with one of the most storied programs in the country is not immune to it.”
St. Anthony’s has shaped the minds and careers of more than just high school basketball players. The school provides opportunities for any and all students. The Hurley family, and St. Anthony community will do all they can until the clock strikes midnight.
*The news broke yesterday afternoon that St. Anthony’s, despite the efforts of Hurley Sr. and the community, would be shutting down on the June 30 due to low enrollment and tuition. “We had a good run,” Hurley Sr. said (quote courtesy of the New york Daily News).
They certainly did.