July 2, 2017


St. Anthony's Unanswered Prayer : Over 45 years, Bob Hurley turned his Jersey City basketball program into an unlikely national power. Now, after 28 state titles and decades of staving off closure, St. Anthony is shutting its doors, and the Friars family is trying to cope with running out of miracles. (sam Fortier, 6/30/17, the Ringer)

A few minutes before 7 on a warm May night in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first of 200 or so guests arrive for what one event organizer calls "the final celebration of life" for the fabled St. Anthony High School basketball team. They climb up the brownstone steps to White Eagle Hall, the old gym about a mile from the school itself, where head coach Bob Hurley's Friars, who never had a home gym of their own, practiced for the better part of three decades until 2003. As the attendees pull open the mahogany doors and walk into the main hall, they mostly gasp. They remember White Eagle as a dingy, cramped gym, but a $6 million renovation that began in 2012 and concluded this spring has produced an ornate concert venue. During the renovation, a crew wiping away grime on the ceiling discovered two handcrafted, stained-glass murals, and they ripped up the basketball court and refashioned it as bar counters and balcony flooring. Now, the onstage guitarist, sensitive to the occasion, plays only slow, acoustic jazz and blues.
"Well," a woman says to her friends as they enter the hall, "they turned the temple of basketball into a whorehouse." [...]

Onstage, Hurley takes the microphone in his Merrells, blue jeans, and trademark sweater-vest. During his 45-year, one-school career, he never had a home gym, yet he won 1,184 games and 28 state titles -- a national record for a high school hoops program. Hurley loved the White Eagle days because he thought beating everyone after practicing in a converted bingo hall that lacked heat in the winter symbolized his squad. He says as much onstage, and the crowd thunders with applause as Hurley remarks on fan-favorite players and coaches, the eight Friars teams that went undefeated, and the four that won a national championship.

Hurley thanks everyone for coming to the dinner. He asks for a standing ovation for the St. Anthony teachers in attendance and ambles offstage. He doesn't go two steps before a line forms in front of him, each person waiting his or her turn to talk with the man who turned their hometown team into a national fixture.

"We did everything we could."

"This was bigger than ball for a lot of us."

"I guess we finally found a game we couldn't win."

Posted by at July 2, 2017 12:39 PM