He's the most legendary figure in New Jersey High School sports. For years, Bob Hurley has coached the basketball team at St. Anthony's in Jersey City, and sent his players to Division I schools all over the country.
When Fred Hill was hired, Hurley gave Rutgers a vote of confidence and helped get Mike Rosario to commit to the Scarlet Knights. He also pushed Tim Pernetti to hire Mike Rice. Now, he's coaching Rutgers commit Myles Mack.
But how important is Hurley in the grand scheme of things?
More after the jump...
"Even though freshmen have a lot of impact, I'm not so sure they can move right up in that league [Big East]," Hurley said Thursday. "But I think by the time those kids are sophomores followed by some more kids they'll have the nucleus.
"They just gotta be able to put two classes together now. I think they're in good shape."
While getting Hurley to say good things about the program is nice, Hurley's never been a friend of the RU program. Only one true St. Anthony's player has committed to the Knights in the last decade--Mike Rosario. And while, most of that is on Fred Hill, Rosario turned out to be more headache than savior. Myles Mack played most of his high school career at Paterson Catholic, moving to the Friars for his senior year, because PC shut down.
Does Hurley want Rutgers to do well?
It's debatable. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if Rutgers succeeded, but it's not his number one concern. He's worried about his team and his players. He wants each of his kids to go to the school that's best for them. He doesn't need them to go to Rutgers. Most of that is detailed in Adrian Wojnarowski's excellent book The Miracle of St. Anthony.*
However, there are so many stories about RU needing to keep Hurley happy over the years. Kevin Bannon hired Bob's son Danny as an assistant. A member of Gary Waters staff once made a huge gaff, screaming: "Where's Hurley? High school Hurley?" Even Tim Pernetti hired Hurley to help with the latest coaching search.
While recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, Rutgers can't spend every waking moment trying to please Hurley. It's clear Rice isn't doing that. Of the ten players Rice has either brought in or got to commit (verbally or signed), only one has a tangible connection to Hurley. Getting the best players on your team, coaching them well, and developing them, that's what's going to get a program to win.
Not creating a pipeline of players from one team.
Even Hurley stresses the importance of development.
"We start next Friday and until the end of the season we’re going to really work hard to get him [Mack] to be that on-the-ball defender that Mike Rice is really looking for."
Hurley can be an asset, but not the end-all be-all.
Rutgers just needs to win. That's what would make Hurley want to send more players this way. And then, Hurley would be very important to the program.
*This book made me a huge Bob Hurley fan. In it, Hurley comes off as one of the best teachers I've ever read about. If you're at all interested in high school basketball, college recruiting, and the life of a good man, give this book a read. It's well worth your time.