He has won national championships, he has his number 11 jersey retired at one of the most famous college basketball venues, he just took Buffalo to the NCAA Tournament. All of these things that people are talking about for why Bobby Hurley is a good hire for ASU are true, but I chose to take something I recently witnessed for my reason to like the hire.
If you are an ASU fan whether die hard or casual, you have a homework assignment before passing off any judgment about your new head basketball coach. Find the next time ESPN airs the 30 for 30 documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner” and either DVR it or grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy.
Bobby Hurley plays such an interesting role in this story and it was a side of him, Laettner and the Duke program that I had never heard of. The documentary talked about one of the reasons people hated Laettner was because he was a bully on the basketball court. He liked to get a competitive advantage physically but also mentally which not only got in the heads of opposing players but also his own teammates.
The teammate they spotlight as the one that Laettner really would lay into was Bobby Hurley. He was the ultimate competitor and wanted to get the most out of Hurley but did so in ways you wouldn’t normally see between teammates. He would roll the ball to him off an inbounds rather than pass to him and he would shove him or make measly comments towards him on the court during the game.
I don’t like using the word bully as it pertains to this sort of dynamic because real life bullies are horrific human beings who do not have your best interests at hand. But for the sake of this story and what Laettner put Hurley through on and off the court, I will use it. It is the people that stand up to these bullies whether or not there is support from others is what truly embodies the mindset of a true leader.
This story comes full circle in the final game these two played together in their National Championship date with Michigan’s “Fab Five” in 1992. Laettner came out of the gates and played absolutely horrible and as Coach K mentioned in the Documentary, had more passes converted to the other team than he did his own. At halftime, Hurley absolutely ripped apart Laettner in front of his coaches and teammates giving him the same business that he had dealt with for the last three years. It was something that shocked everyone in the room.
The result? Laettner went on to have a monster second half which led to Duke blowing out Michigan and winning their second consecutive national title.
That is just one story that shows the kind of competitor and coach that Hurley has the ability to be. It doesn’t matter who he is coaching and what the circumstance, it can be someone that has made your life a living hell for an extended period of time, but if you have the guts to stand up to bullies, stand up to adversity and fight for what you believe in your heart to be true, that is a leader by every stretch of the word.
Hurley is young, he is motivated, he has experienced success both as a player and as a coach, he has the lineage from his father who is one of the most legendary high school coaches in the state of New Jersey and played collegiately for one of the best coaches of all time. All of those things make up for a great resume.
But it is stories like that which provides example of an “it factor” that the ASU program so desperately needs.