DAYTON, Ohio – Bobby Hurley’s dark hair has started to turn gray. He is 25 years removed from his college playing days at Duke, but overall, the Arizona State coach is still an infant in his profession. Hurley is in just his fifth season, his third at ASU.
Contrast that with Jim Boeheim.
The Syracuse coach enters Wednesday’s NCAA Tournament First Four matchup against the Sun Devils in his 42nd season at his alma mater. Think about that: Hurley would have to coach in Tempe through 2057 just to match the Hall of Famer’s longevity at Syracuse. That’s ridiculous.
And it also presents an interesting story line for ASU’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014. Hurley, 46 and fiery, is in just his second NCAA Tournament as a head coach. He has yet to win a March Madness game. Boeheim, 73 and crusty, is in his 33rd tournament. He has 53 tournament wins, although four have been vacated.
“To be able to deliver tournament appearances and Final Fours and national championships for that period of time and sustain it as a program is unbelievable,” Hurley said before Tuesday’s practice at Dayton Arena.
“I had, like, an unusual out-of-the-box playing experience. I thought you were just supposed to go to the NCAA Tournament and go to the Final Four and that’s just how it is. No, it’s really difficult.”
Although Boeheim and Hurley never have clashed as head coaches, they have history. Boeheim has known Hurley’s father – a fellow Hall of Famer – for years. Earlier in his career, he’d visit Bob Hurley at St. Anthony High in Jersey City just to watch practice.
ASU VS. SYRACUSE: TV station, game time and streaming info for Wednesday NCAA Tourney game
NCAA FIRST FOUR: Breaking down the ASU vs. Syracuse NCAA Tournament game
Hurley and Boeheim have a history
Boeheim also recruited Bobby.
“We were obviously at the top of our game back then,” Boeheim said. “He came up (on an unofficial visit.)”
Hurley liked Syracuse’s great tradition of point guards, making the possibility of joining the likes of Pearl Washington and Sherman Douglas intriguing. He saw the Orange play Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome, a game that decided the regular-season title in the old Big East.
“It was just a special environment,” Hurley said. “(But) when I visited Duke, it was just, I couldn’t say no to that. But I always enjoyed the possibility of going there and always thought what a great coach Coach Boeheim was.”
He saw it up close his freshman season. In just his fourth game, Hurley and the Blue Devils squared off against Syracuse in the ACC/Big East challenge. Hurley had four points and 10 assists, but also six turnovers.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Hurley said.
All these years later, one play sticks out.
“It was my first big-time game,” Hurley said. “Derrick Coleman won the tip and he tipped it to Billy Owens. And then Billy Owens took, like, two dribbles and I was the last guy back. He threw a lob to Stevie Thompson (it might have been Dave Johnson) and he just dunked right over me.”
Syracuse – then the No. 1 team in the country – won 78-76 that day. Boeheim continued to follow Hurley’s career, both as a player and coach.
Hurley’s family ‘as intense as any basketball family’
“Bobby was an unbelievable player … and he’s done an incredible job both at Buffalo and now coming out to Arizona State,” he said. “His whole family is probably as intense as any basketball family.”
Hurley’s intensity is well documented. What’s not as known are his daily workouts and the role they play in getting him in the right state of mind to coach. Before the season, ASU scheduled a voluntary run up a desert mountain.
“It was about six miles,” Hurley said. “Uphill and you have to get to the top and back — and guys were struggling.”
But not their coach.
“We all ran,” senior guard Tra Holder said, “and he was top three on our whole team. That just tells you something about his mentality.”
On the road, Hurley jumps on the hotel treadmill. (On a recent conference trip, the treadmill didn’t work so he ran the hotel hallways.) He cranks it up as fast as he can tolerate, trying to finish three miles under 22 minutes.
“I’ve never joined his workouts; they seem a little intense for me,” senior guard Kodi Justice said. “But it’s good to be able to have somebody who is a competitor. He wants to win in everything he does.”
In whatever he does, Hurley tries to find an edge. He tried to do it as a player – running laps around the Duke football stadium the night before he played rival North Carolina – and he tries to do the same as a coach.
It’s his process. One that might keep him in the game for as long as Boeheim. Or at least somewhere close to it.
“For me, I try to push my limits to what I do,” Hurley said. “ … You do things like that and you hope that it builds a mental toughness, an ability to fight through things.”
ASU VS. SYRACUSE: Picks, predictions: Who wins NCAA Tournament Midwest Region game?
MORE BOBBY HURLEY: The method behind ASU coach Bobby Hurley’s courtside madness
Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DougHaller. Download and subscribe to the Two-Man Weave Podcast, available on iTunes.
No. 11 ASU vs. No. 11 Syracuse
NCAA Tournament First Four
When: 6:10 p.m.
Where: Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio.
TV/radio: TruTV/Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
Outlook: ASU (20-11) and Syracuse (20-13) were the last two at-large teams selected for the NCAA Tournament. … The Sun Devils tied for eighth in the Pac-12 and lost their opening game in the Pac-12 Tournament. Their trump card: A perfect non-conference schedule that included wins over No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. … Syracuse tied for 10th in the 15-team ACC. The Orange lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals against North Carolina. They are 6-6 against NCAA Tournament teams. … The winner of Wednesday’s contest travels to Detroit, where they’ll face sixth-seeded Texas Christian on Friday in the Midwest region.