HBS Showcase: Coach Bob Hurley Is As Real As It Gets

Mar-26-2013 by
Coach Hurley

Bob Hurley is one of only three high school coaches to join legends such as Red Aerbach, Phil Jackson and Dean Smith in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Before becoming a full-time coach in 2001, he spent 28 years as a correctional officer in his hometown, Jersey City. How has this man become a coaching legend?

Committed to his love for basketball, Bob Hurley has been coaching for 47 years. After leading his college basketball team freshman year, Hurley was cut from the team in his sophomore year. Leaving a deep scar and a burning passion for basketball, Hurley took up an opportunity to coach his younger brother’s basketball team. Since then he has continued to coach basketball either part time or, as he does now, full time.

But Hurley did not chase basketball for wealth and fame but because it tied him to something bigger than himself. While working as a probation officer to support his family, Hurley saw the importance of keeping kids off the street, getting an education and playing basketball. He said, “learning those things has made leaving St. Anthony almost impossible…I’m a very good basketball coach, but I also think I have some answers to these other problems. I can tell them [students] about all those men I’ve met. I can cite story after story of people with potential, but who ended up in jail.”  His determination to use basketball for something bigger enabled him to turn down multiple offers to coach at top college programs with significantly increased salaries and personal glory.

By holding students to high standards, promoting hard work instead of short cuts, and doling out healthy doses of tough love, Hurley has become the driving force behind the success of many students. In a community where one in four children under the age of 18 live in poverty (compared to the statewide average of 12.3%), Hurley serves as a strong role model. In his 39 years at St. Anthony’s, only three players have not gone to college and 200 students have gone on to play college basketball.

Additionally, Hurley has spent a considerable amount of time fundraising for St. Anthony’s through speaking events and basketball clinics. In a time where many small schools are closing, he is the reason St. Anthony’s continues to provide a place for Jersey City’s most economically challenged to become valuable, contributing members of their community.

As part of J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s philanthropic efforts, David Kelso (HBS ‘77) was introduced to Coach Hurley. In helping the Coach raise publicity for St. Anthony’s basketball program Kelso notes “people respond to him [Hurley] because he is very real. That comes across in a world where people are continuously posing.”

Kelso encouraged Professor Snook, who has taught cases on other famous basketball coaches (Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski), to write a case on a man who never left his hometown, turned down multiple college coaching offers, and managed to make a deep impact. Inspired by Hurley, Professor Snook and Brad Lawrence (OB) wrote the case “Coach Hurley at St. Anthony High School” that will be taught this term in the EC course Authentic Leadership Development.

As part of the HBS Showcase, Coach Hurley, both of his sons (including Bobby Hurley, a former NBA and Duke ’91 and ‘92 National Championship team player) and Harvard University basketball Coach Amaker, will be on campus on March 28th. At 2:45pm the documentary, “The Street Stops Here”, will be screened in the Hawes basement and at 5:30pm Coach Hurley will host a Q&A session in Aldrich 7. At 7pm the SA is sponsoring a March Madness event at the Grille.

Meeting Coach Hurley is a chance to hear from an authentic leader who followed his passion, resisted temptations and created an everlasting impact on his students and supported a school. He is as real as it gets.

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