Robert Matthew Hurley has won 28 state championships as a high school basketball coach.
Born in the Greenville section of Jersey City, New Jersey, July 31, 1947, Hurley was raised in St. Paul the Apostle Parish, where his father was a police officer. He remained in Jersey City and played basketball; first at St. Peter’s Prep and later for St. Peter’s College. After walking off his college team in his sophomore year over a lack of playing time, Hurley began volunteering as coach for a Catholic Youth Organization grammar school team in his parish. In 1972, he became head coach at St. Anthony High School.
St. Anthony’s is a four-year, private coeducational secondary school in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Run by Felician Sisters, the school has fewer than 240 students, making it one of the smallest high schools in New Jersey. Founded in 1952, St. Anthony’s was the parish school of the Polish Catholic church five blocks up the street. In the late 70’s and early 80s, “white flight” caused the dying parish financial hardship, resulting in St. Anthony’s being declared an “independent” school and eliminating the church from any financial obligation. Today, most students live below or near the poverty line.
Bob Hurley has never been a teacher or full-time employee at St. Anthony’s. For most of his career, he has been a probation officer. After that, he worked for the Jersey City Recreation Department. Since 1972, he has been one of the most successful basketball coaches ever to wear a whistle around his neck. Hurley won his first state championship in 1973. From 1983 to 1991, St. Anthony’s won nine straight New Jersey high school titles. The 1989 team featured three first-round NBA draft choices, including his son Bobby, who later won two NCAA championships at Duke [Daily Dose, 8/17/16] and is now head basketball coach at Arizona State University. Considered one of the best teams in New Jersey history, the 1989 squad—which included Terry Dehere and Rodrick Rhodes—amassed 50 straight wins. Between January 1995 and February 1997, St. Anthony’s won 66 games in a row. The 2004 Friars finished the season undefeated and ranked number two in the nation despite not having a single senior good enough to receive a college offer. The 2008 squad went undefeated and was ranked number one in the country while not having a player taller than 6’6”. That team, which sent all six seniors to Division I programs, rolled through the state tournament with an average margin of victory of over 27 points per game.
St. Anthony’s, which competes in the Hudson County Interscholastic League, has the most dominant high school program in America. The Friars have won four national championships and 28 state titles, more than any high school in history. Every senior to graduate from the program has won at least one state title, most more than one. Hurley has coached five NBA first-round picks, has sent over 150 players to Division I programs and had two players go on to play Major League Baseball. Eight of his teams have gone undefeated. Coach Hurley, the “Patron Saint of St. Anthony’s,” is a benevolent dictator, a strict disciplinarian who demands total commitment. “It’s hard to be good,” preaches Hurley. “Your mark is what you do on a day when you don’t want to do it. The people that just only do well on days they feel like doing well, they’re never going to handle life’s obstacles.” Hurley’s teams are known for their speed, defensive intensity and precise ball movement. The coach demands players to exercise self-control both on and off the court. Mr. Hurley, who is an icon and legend across the nation yet sweeps the gym floor before every practice, has the singular purpose of elevating the mind, body and spirit of each of his players. “I do not want somebody to come back to me ten years after high school and say, ‘Coach I wish you been tougher on me. I could’ve done more with my life,’ said Hurley. “I never want to be in that position.”
The Hurley’s are a basketball family. Bob has more than 1,100 wins in 44 years, Bobby won titles in high school and college, and Bobby’s younger brother Dan is an outstanding coach. In 2008, St. Anthony’s was ranked number one in the nation. Their archrival, St. Benedict’s Prep, was coached by Dan Hurley [who had played for his father at St. Anthony’s] and was ranked number two. In the most hotly contested game of the season, father outdueled son by three points to keep St. Benedict’s from an undefeated season and the top national ranking. Following a decade of success coaching at St. Benedict’s, Dan Hurley is now head coach at the University of Rhode Island.
Bob Hurley is a three-time National Coach of the Year. In 2010, he became the third high school coach ever elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, where he was introduced by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski at the induction ceremony. The following year, he became the tenth coach in high school history to win 1,000 games. Hurley is a man of integrity and faith. He has been married to Christine, a Jersey City girl from Sacred Heart Parish, since 1970. Located in a poor, inner-city area, St. Anthony’s is in a perpetual state of financial crisis. The school charges its economically struggling students well below the cost of educating them. Thanks to Hurley, who is a tireless fundraiser on behalf of the school, St. Anthony’s is still around after many similar Catholic schools serving poor or working-class populations have shut their doors.
Entering the 2016-17 season, Robert Matthew Hurley has amassed a record of 1,162-119 at St. Anthony’s, making him the third-winningest coach in high school basketball history. He has turned down numerous offers to coach in college, believing he can have more impact teaching young men at the high school level. St. Anthony’s is the currently defending New Jersey state champion and is in search of its’ 29th title this coming season. Hurley and his program have been featured in a 2010 documentary entitled, The Street Stops Here.