Monday was a day for all Saint Peter’s alums to honor each their faculty and their nickname, all of them Peacock-proud, all of them reaching deep into the drawers to search out wrinkled previous sweatshirts, combing their closets to mud off previous windbreakers, see if they may nonetheless squeeze into them.
For Bob Hurley, Class of ’71, that meant grabbing a baseball cap earlier than he reported to work on the Explore School on Ninth Avenue in Jersey City, the place he’d do what he’s finished for all of his grownup life: educate the town’s children about basketball, learn how to play it correctly and nicely. For 45 years, he did this by successful near 1,200 video games and 28 state titles at St. Anthony High, a career that landed him in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Since that college shuttered its doorways, it’s been at this vocational center faculty, a free program sponsored by the Hurley Family Foundation, and the message remains to be the identical if the depth isn’t.
“I call it my ‘grandfatherly’ approach to coaching now,” he mentioned, laughing.
But Monday, earlier than the children leapt into motion, they admired Hurley’s hat, as a result of all of them had gotten caught up in the great swirl of Saint Peter’s, which beat Kentucky in one of the good upsets in faculty basketball historical past on Thursday, then soundly defeated Murray State on Saturday to advance to Friday’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 sport towards Purdue in Philadelphia.
“The energy is what Jersey City is all about,” Hurley mentioned. “The kids, the adults, in this city of 300,000 people, it’s such a phenomenal story because there is such pride in the fact that this has happened here. There’s a grit that comes out of the city’s people here, and you see it with this team. A lot of these kids have been through the high school battles of New Jersey and New York. You think they’re going to be scared by Kentucky? Or by anything?”
Hurley performed freshman ball at Saint Peter’s and averaged 20 factors per sport, and he was contemporaries and buddies with most of the “Run Baby Run” Peacocks who supplied Saint Peter’s with its earlier second of glory, a run to the 1968 NIT finals capped by a 100-71 stomping of Duke. That included Elnardo Webster, the best participant in faculty historical past, whose passing Tuesday supplied a sobering counterbalance to the campus glee.
“Such a great player,” Hurley mentioned. “Such a great team. And Jersey City fell in love with those guys. They’d get 6-7,000 people at the old armory. It was amazing.”
Hurley by no means did make the varsity, however even that comes with a cheerful asterisk. He spent that winter of his sophomore year serving to out the CYO workforce for his parish, St. Paul’s. That was his first style of teaching. Consider it akin to the primary time somebody handed Michelangelo a paintbrush.
“The next year I was offered the freshman job at St. Anthony,” he mentioned. “And I was off.”
Hurley is blown away not simply by the way in which Saint Peter’s wins however by the way it performs. He has recognized coach Shaheen Holloway for years, and is particularly joyful on the toughness Holloway’s children play with, their resilience.
“The best thing anyone ever said about our team, to me, was that on defense, when we were really playing well, it felt like we had seven guys out there because we would rotate and help out and yet it felt like nobody was ever open,” Hurley mentioned. “And you look at what Saint Peter’s does and it’s exactly the same thing. It’s just remarkable to watch.”
Like all of Jersey City, like all Saint Peter’s alums — and like all followers of instantaneous Cinderellas — Hurley will hold a detailed watch on the Peacocks on Friday, after they tackle Purdue and their powerful 1-2 tandem of Jaden Ivey and 7-foot-4 Zach Edey.
For Hurley, that first step final week got here with some battle, as a result of at the very same time the Peacocks had been taking out Kentucky, he was sitting in Buffalo’s KeyBank Center watching Connecticut — coached by his youthful son, Danny — obtain the same gut-punch blow by one other glass slipper, New Mexico State.
“I kept seeing the score updates but was suffering watching UConn,” Hurley mentioned. “Though when I got back to the hotel and saw Saint Peter’s pulled it out I was thrilled for them. What a story.”
The sweatshirts and the windbreakers and the baseball caps received’t be going again into storage for any Saint Peter’s alums, actually not earlier than Friday evening. And who is aware of? Maybe they’ll want them for Sunday, too.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned,” Hurley mentioned, “it’s that nothing in this game is predetermined. I can promise you this. I can promise you Saint Peter’s is going to show up.”