The Hurley Factor
What do two brothers from a legendary basketball clan bring to the Seahawk program? Confidence in each other, for one. Read an extended version of the Summer 2010 ‘Wagner Magazine’ interview with Dan and Bobby Hurley, Wagner’s new head and assistant basketball coaches.
On April 7, Dan Hurley (above, left) was introduced as the 17th head basketball coach in Wagner College history. A standout player at Seton Hall from 1991 to 1996, Hurley compiled a sparkling 223-21 record in nine seasons as head coach at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey.
Hurley brings not only his own accomplishments to the Seahawks, but also those of a legendary basketball family. Dan hired his older brother, Bobby Hurley Jr., (above, right) as an assistant coach. A former Duke University All-American, Bobby is the all-time assist leader in the history of college basketball and played five seasons in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. Their father is Bob Hurley Sr., head coach of St. Anthony in Jersey City, where he has won 984 games in 38 seasons. He will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August 2010.
Wagner’s assistant athletic director for media relations, John Beisser, sat down to talk with Dan and Bobby Hurley in May. (This expanded version of the interview includes additional material not in the print magazine.)
What are the challenges of transitioning from high school basketball to college basketball?
Dan: I think it would be a lot more challenging if I didn’t have a college background coaching for four seasons at Rutgers (1997–2001) which I’ve been drawing from. And the level that we played at St. Benedict’s prepared me for the job, the intensity of recruiting, and the know-how of running a great program.
What about the style of play we can expect from a Dan Hurley-coached team at Wagner?
Dan: The way I’d like to play once the roster is at a place we’re comfortable with would be a real aggressive man-to-man style with an up-tempo offensive style. You have to be more multiple of defense at the college level as opposed to high school. Once we’re at a comfortable place in terms of the talent base, that’s the way we’d like to go. The good thing about being a high school coach is you’re not married to a style. You kind of change it and tweak it every year based on what you have personnel-wise.
You’ve already brought several quality players into the program. What about the selling points of Wagner?
Dan: It’s obviously a very good liberal arts college. Location is big for us with the proximity to Manhattan and the Jersey Shore. Being in the basketball capital of the United States are all big selling points as well as having put together a great staff. And my track record as a head coach and the really good tradition dating back to P. J. Carlesimo that Wagner has — it all helps.
Bobby, what about the challenges of the transition you’re making from playing to coaching at Wagner?
Bobby: Well, it’s definitely an adjustment. I’m learning on the job. I’m trying to stick to who I am as a person in terms of how I recruit, and when I talk to potential recruits I’m just trying to rely on the wealth of experience that I’ve had playing the game. The fact that I know basketball very well and played at a very high level and trying to communicate that to potential recruits are all positives.
How are you similar or dissimilar to Dan in your approach to recruiting?
Bobby: I’m developing an approach right now. It’s one thing to play the game at a high level and being around it my whole life. I’m learning a lot from Danny being here the first couple of weeks. I think I know the game very well. As an assistant coach you have to be different from the head coach. At times I’m going to pick the guys up as Danny beats them down (laughs) but it’s a process where you can work off each other.
Could there be a good-cop, bad-cop situation going on here?
Bobby: It could be. I know there’s some bad cop in me, and I’m going to have to resist that as much as possible. We all have the same goals in mind, we want to make this thing great and we’re going to do the best job we can to do that.
Dan, what about having your older brother Bobby on staff and what a unique situation this is?
Dan: At any level of college, to have a former player accomplish what he accomplished brings a credibility in terms of player development, in terms of recruiting and trying to get your foot in the door. Obviously, at the college level when you’re putting together a staff you’re looking for guys who can be loyal, hard-working and guys you can trust. And he’s obviously all those things. Just like myself, he had the chance to grow up around a Hall of Fame coach, just absorbing all of the details and the philosophies of coaching from our dad.
Dan, describe the influence your father has had on you in your career.
Dan: I didn’t realize how great a coach he was probably until I got to Rutgers. I had this impression that the greatest coaches were college basketball coaches. I kind of compared him to what I was seeing at the Big East level and he was as good or better then everyone. To have the opportunity to absorb the game from him, that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.
Same question for you, Bobby, how much of an influence has your father had on you?
Bobby: His record speaks for itself, and all of the kids whose lives he’s impacted. First of all, in this position I take that very seriously. I’m working with kids who are beginning to become young men, and I hope to be a good example for them, to help develop them and be a part of their lives. And that’s something my dad has always done. Secondly, he’s just a tremendous worker. He’s always around the game, he’s always in the gym, and the kids can count on him. And that’s kind of who I want to be in terms of those two things.
Dan, are the current student-athletes aware of reputations that you and Bobby possess, and what has been their response to you?
Dan: I think that my reputation at St. Benedict’s has been very fortunate. I’ve coached five McDonald’s All-Americans and a player who went straight to the NBA out of high school. You have a lot of equity in terms of developing players that the kids all know and have seen playing at a high level. So from that standpoint, I believe they have a great deal of respect for the level of player I’m used to developing and coaching. I think they understand the mentality of a demanding coach; they realized that very quickly as we got into individual workouts. I think they got a good sense of the type of intensity, passion, and competitiveness I expect, and I think they understood that from a cultural standpoint every day in practice.
Bobby, how do you feel about working under your younger brother?
Bobby: Well, it’s been great for me; I’ve always been very proud of Danny. I have followed his coaching career very closely over the last 10 years. Any chance that I could, I have watched his teams play, and really enjoyed doing that and being a part of it. I think he’s very deserving of this opportunity. I know that it is a change for him, so my feeling is that I will do the best job for him to help make this a success. I know that he’s put the time in and is a great coach, so he deserves to make this a successful situation.
A lot has been made of your father going to the Hall of Fame. Talk about the reaction that he and other members of your family had to your becoming a Division I head coach.
Dan: I think they’re incredibly excited on number of levels. I think that my dad probably wanted more for us. As for myself, I don’t think that he would have thought I was reaching my full potential if I remained a high school coach for 35 years. He always wanted more for me, and I know he feels the same about Bobby. He believes in both of us and our abilities to become successful Division I head coaches. From that standpoint, I think he’s more excited for the situation here at Wagner than he was for himself with the Hall of Fame. My mom and my sister have been pushing me really hard to make the return to college. They offered my dad support at St. Anthony, and we expect them to provide the same amount of support here at Wagner. What’s also very exciting to [my parents] is that all of their grandchildren are living in New Jersey. I know that fills their hearts with a lot of joy.