St. Anthony High (Jersey City, N.J.) boys basketball coach Bob Hurley, 62, is one of the most successful coaches in sports history. This year, he was a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. During his 38 seasons, he has won 23 state titles as a head coach and two as an assistant.
He has more than 950 victories, and five of his teams have gone undefeated, including the 2007-08 team that ended the season ranked No. 1 in the country. With 25 state titles, St. Anthony has more than any high school in the country.
His 2003-04 team is the subject of Adrian Wojnarowski's bestselling book "The Miracle of St. Anthony," which chronicled its undefeated season while dealing with players' off-court issues and the school's financial problems. The book is being made into a movie, and production is set to begin in 2010.
In Tampa for this week's Tampa Hoops Classic, Hurley talked with the Tribune about a variety of subjects.
What is your impression of Florida hoops?
I go all the way back to 1984 with basketball in Florida. We went down to Ocala for the Kingdom of the Sun (tournament). We played against those great Miami Senior (high school) teams. I've been a fan and supporter of Florida basketball. I love discussing football in Florida, but I always say don't sleep on Florida basketball.
Can you describe the basketball scene in New Jersey?
It's a place that is in one of the most heavily populated places in the country. The competition right now has become what New York City used to be. Northern New Jersey, right now, has the strongest basketball in the metropolitan area. You have a lot of kids playing, and Catholic schools have had success for a long time because of the track record of the kids.
Does coaching ever get old?
No. You have to love what you do, and I really enjoy it. It's a tremendous amount of fun. Every year is something new.
Several college recruiting scandals have surfaced the past few years. What can be done to curtail it?
The big problems now are going on outside the period of basketball. There are people hanging around high school kids, working for agents, convincing them to go to a college. They need to allow high school coaches to have more time with players. At the AAU level, they don't have enforcement. The kids are playing way too many games, like 150 games in a summer. They're not getting better, they're just playing basketball.
How does it feel to know there is a movie being made about your program?
It's unusual. It's something you wouldn't expect to happen. Our school is a very poor school and we think this will raise funds for us. We should make $1 million off this movie. We operate on a deficit of about a $1 million every year. (Former NFL coach) Bill Parcells found out about our situation and called me up and sent a $100,000 check to the school the next day.