Why Former Duke Star Bobby Hurley Will Have Success as a College Coach

C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterApril 12, 2013

Courtesy University at Buffalo
Courtesy University at Buffalo

Bobby Hurley is on the phone and he’s talking about what many consider the greatest college basketball game of all time.

Hurley, the former Duke point guard, gets asked about the 1992 regional final against Kentucky a lot, he says. People will tell him of where they were during that game—like it was a monumental moment of U.S. history.

Hurley can also talk about playing in three Final Fours or his NCAA record for assists or his back-to-back championships at Duke or growing up the son of a high school coaching legend.

The next chapter in Hurley’s life is taking him to the University at Buffalo, where he was hired as the men’s basketball coach on March 26. His coaching career includes two seasons at Wagner and one at Rhode Island, all as an assistant to his brother, Dan Hurley.

But who cares about experience anymore?

Andy Enfield just took Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 in his second year as a head coach. Shaka Smart went to the Final Four at 33. Fred Hoiberg had never coached before Iowa State hired him in 2010, and he’s gone to two straight NCAA tournaments.

And if Hurley were a racehorse—with his bloodlines—he’d sell for millions.

“Growing up, I loved the game,” he said. “And when you grow up with the game like I did and you’re around practices since you can walk at St. Anthony, and I’m watching my dad as a role model and seeing him coach, that was always what I had wanted to do.”

At a school like Buffalo, which has never been to an NCAA tournament, why not take a gamble on a guy like Hurley?

It was easy for Hurley to get into coaching because of who he is and his success as a player, and honestly, that’s the only “this may not work because…” of the equation.

Great players don’t always make great coaches. Isiah Thomas, for instance, spent three years at Florida International and was fired after three losing seasons.

But the name alone can get you players. Richard Pitino, the son of Rick Pitino, followed Thomas at FIU. He won with Thomas’ players, taking FIU to the Sun Belt tournament championship game in his first year.

One year as a head coach and Pitino turned that into the head job at Minnesota—skipping a few steps on the ladder.

Hurley witnessed his brother, Dan Hurley, take a more traditional route. He started at St. Benedict’s High School in New Jersey and built a powerhouse, much like his father’s at St. Anthony.

Dan then spent two years at Wagner, winning only eight games the first season and then 25 the next. That success got him the job at Rhode Island, where he went 8-21 this past year. Even with that record, his name has been mentioned for the Rutgers’ job and Rhode Island signed Hurley to an extension through 2020, according to a report from CBSSports.com

Dan is just the latest of mid-major programs realizing what they have and taking care of their guys.

What the Hurleys accomplished at Wagner and the Florida Gulf Coasts of college basketball have given guys like Bobby hope that he can succeed quickly.

“The parity and the gap has closed significantly,” he said. “… There’s usually a story like Florida Gulf Coast. I think it’s terrific for the college game. It gives hope to teams at all levels that they can have their moment in the NCAA tournament like that. It’s an exciting style. I think the fact that you see how much fun that team was having playing at a faster pace. You don’t have to run the Princeton offense to beat some of the best teams in college basketball.”

This is what recruits will like to hear. Bobby wants to play fast and he wants to give his guards freedom.

“I want guards that can get up and down and create their own shot and guys that share my passion for playing,” Hurley said. “I relate really well to players that I’ve coached that love getting in the gym and working on their game and getting better.”

That Hurley work ethic has served his family well. Even if you want to bring up past great players who have failed in other positions, Hurley is different in that his path hit at least one bump along the road.

He was humbled his rookie season in the NBA when a car accident nearly ended his life and his playing career.

“I had a storybook career up to that point—just the winning and championships and individual success,” he said. “Starting out as a rookie in the NBA as a first-round pick, it was like a dream come true. Usually life doesn’t work that way and unfortunately I found out with no time to prepare for something like that, how to handle it.

“…I’ll talk about overcoming obstacles and things aren’t always easy and you’ve got to fight through hard times.”

Yes, Hurley has some great stories to tell. He has the pedigree. He has Coach K and Grant Hill and his dad in his Rolodex.

Is he the next big thing?

We’ll have to see him coach first, but this story just seems too perfect not to work out. 


Bobby Hurley, the former Duke basketball great is available for interview courtesy of Thuzio, the online marketplace that directly connects the public with pro athletes for appearances, speaking and unique fan experiences. Bobby is also now live and available on Thuzio.com.