On Saturday afternoon, it was the tale of two games.
At 12 pm on one of the many different ESPNs, the University of Rhode Island took on Dayton, a team with twenty wins and plenty of talent. The Rams were missing their two best players and were down to a seven man rotation. Injured all year, Danny Hurley's squad were underachieving this season, but still exceeding post-injury expectations. And then they went into Dayton, played some tough defense, smart offense and walked out of the building with a twelve point victory.
Two hours later, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, missing their two best players and down to an 8 man rotation traveled to Northwestern. The Wildcats are a scrappy team, but only have five Big Ten wins on the season and aren't world beaters. Rutgers limped out of the building after giving up 17 three pointers and suffering a 39 point loss.
Two days later, the comparisons, intentional or not, continued as two articles popped up in my news feed at the same time. The first one was the Big Ten Power Rankings from Penn Live. In it, Rutgers was-of course-ranked dead last. The author eviscerated Eddie Jordan in his write up.
I've almost lost the will to poke fun at this squalor and instead feel real pity for the players on the Rutgers roster who are stuck in the nightmare for another nine days. And I'm not a nice man. I have empathy for players who are getting middle-school-level coaching from a guy who actually was an NBA head coach for six years. But Eddie Jordan actually tried to tell people a couple of weeks ago that they had to be more patient. This is his third season and it's gotten progressively worse since the Mike Rice fiasco.
Not much different than what's been said on this site in the past few weeks, however with harsher language. Not a few minutes later, I came across this article, spouting the word of Danny Hurley.
Dan Hurley can flat-out coach, and this season just might be the best example of it. Saturday's win at Dayton certainly was a case in point. For it's not just Matthews who did not play. It was the fact that Hassan Martin, the Rams' other All-Atlantic 10 preseason selection, also didn't play, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. In short, his two best players, two huge casualties in a war that's become all about attrition.
Back when the Mike Rice incident was over and Rutgers was beginning to look for a new coach, I was all over Twitter with a #JustHireHurley hashtag. The Hurley name would have won the press conference, and Danny would have gotten on with the task at hand: building a winning program. But at the time, I wasn't sure. He'd only been a college coach for three years and was under .500 in two of them.
But it seemed worth the risk.
But now it is looking like the Scarlet Knights have a chance to rectify the mis-step. Because Danny Hurley would be the absolute perfect hire for Rutgers.
Rutgers Cares: Hiring Danny Hurley would show that Rutgers actually cares about basketball and being competitive (or more) in the Big Ten. Danny is not going to come cheap. He wanted seven years last time around, and so why wouldn't he want the same now? A move like that would go against what new coaches get, but Rutgers has to show it cares. Rutgers has to act like they are in the Big Ten, and pony up for an up and coming coach.
He'd Win the Press Conference: New Jersey loves the Hurleys. Whether it is Bob Hurley Sr. going all out to care about his kids and keeping St. Anthony's open or his son Bobby's heroics in the NCAA Tournament in the early nineties, that names resonates. The press would love him and take him seriously. There are no apparent skeletons in the closet to run him through the ringer on his first day. It'd be a celebration.
He Knows Rutgers and What it Takes to Succeed: Danny Hurley was an assistant here under Kevin Bannon, kicking off his coaching career. His assistant Jim Carr was a part of the basketball team through three different coaching regimes. They know Rutgers and they know how to navigate the school. They also know what to ask for in order to win. Hurley essentially has a step up on any other candidate, in terms of knowing the bureaucracies we often talk about in Piscataway.
He Can Recruit: Everyone knows Danny Hurley. He has been landing top 100 talent at Rhode Island. He took a team from 8 wins to 23 in his first 3 years at the school, and before EC Matthews injury, there was talk of having a Top 25 team this season. Danny will buy Pat Hobbs time to get the practice facility built based on his name alone.
No Excuses: If you read the article above, you'll see that all Hurley wants to do is win. He won't worry about being undermanned, and he'll run a grind it out system that will allow whatever team he has to be in the game. This team will scratch, claw and defend the heck out of the opposition to stay in the game. And if you're in the game, you can steal wins. Hurley won't give up entire season as he builds. Even if there are lean years (and there likely will be early on), he'll have the team competing.
He's Young, Energetic, and Can Handle the Egos: Think the basketball version of Chris Ash. Hurley is 44 years old (Ash is 42), and is coming from a big time league. The step up from the Atlantic Ten to the Big Ten is not like stepping up from the NEC or the MAAC. Hurley has coached some of the best players in the game at St. Benedicts. He has high quality talent at Rhode Island and they seem to all buy in. Fans who've longed to land a "Schiano type" for a hoops, a coach who lives and breathes basketball, this is the guy.
That's not to say this is likely to happen. It's not going to be easy to land Danny, and there are plenty of other candidates out there who can get the job done at Rutgers. Rutgers has to show they want Danny, more than Danny has to chase the job. If Hurley turned the job down last time because Rutgers wasn't ready to really take basketball seriously. Are they now?
And Hurley isn't the perfect coach either. He still has one major mark against him. He's never made the NCAA Tournament. However, before going to Florida, neither had Billy Donovan. Neither had Ed Cooley before landing at Providence after leaving Fairfield.
Sometimes there is a name that feels like perfect fit. Danny Hurley is part of New Jersey royalty. And he is the man who can walk into the RAC and make people take notice. And while some Rutgers fans have some sort of strange grudge against the Hurley family, it's time to let that go and start thinking about winning basketball.
Hey, Pat Hobbs, what do you think? I hope you're ready to back up the Brinx for basketball. Danny is not the end all be all coach. There are others out there who can get the job done. Aaron has a whole list.
But, if you want to talk perfection? Destiny? Fate?
If you're ready to let Eddie go, will you pick up the phone and call the perfect candidate? Maybe my news feed will turn positive for the scarlet boys.
Dave White is the author of the Jackson Donne series, including An Empty Hell available now.