PITTSBURGH — Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley has fond memories of Duke, even if most of them don’t involve Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski recruiting him.
“I didn’t have enough stars,” Hurley said. “I was probably a three-and-a-half star player, and Duke historically doesn’t go for those. I begged, just didn’t play quite well enough.”
Hurley’s older brother, on the other hand, got plenty of attention from Coach K.
“I remember, obviously, Bob’s recruiting process,” Hurley said, “and meeting Coach K. at open gym at White Eagle Hall, the bingo hall that’s so famous — where it all began at St. Anthony (the high school alma mater of both Hurleys). And then Coach K flying back with Bobby after the official visit, and meeting Coach K in the home and just how easy he made everyone feel, his personality, his wit.”
Bobby Hurley ended up going to Duke, winning a pair of national championships and going down in school history as one of the best point guards in the program’s long and storied history.
On Saturday, Krzyzewski and Hurley — Dan, not Bob — will meet in the NCAA Tournament. In one of those second-round coincidences that the selection committee always claims isn’t intentional, Duke will play Rhode Island for a spot in the Sweet 16. Last season, a first-round loss by Marquette was all that kept Krzyzewski from coaching against former Duke point guard Steve Wojciechowski.
While Dan never played for Krzyzewski, the bond between the family and Duke is a strong one.
“We feel like we’re in the same family,” Krzyzewski said. “We love the Hurley family. You know?”
A large part of that is the four years Bobby spent at Duke.
“I had as much fun coaching him,” Krzyzewski said. “I was a point guard, and I was never as good as him, but I gave him the freedom that I would have liked if I was as good.
“There would be times at practice where Bobby was working so hard, and I said, ‘I cannot believe he works that hard.’ At that time, the StairMaster was a big thing in getting in shape. After every practice, it didn’t make any difference the length or the severity of the practice, Bobby went on the StairMaster, and he would always try to break the record that he had before. And then he would leave it on the StairMaster to say, ‘If any of you suckers think you can beat that, try to beat it.’ And he was in marathon runner shape.”
It was the same work ethic the Hurley boys’ father — Bob Sr. — demonstrated in a Hall of Fame career as head coach at St. Anthony’s High. And it’s what’s helped both Dan and Bobby rise quickly in the coaching profession. Bobby’s Arizona State team made the NCAA Tourney this year.
“That’s the kind of work ethic that their family has,” Krzyzewski said. “You know, I grew up in a family where they worked and they showed up every day. They show up every day. There’s an expression that I love called the ‘dignity of work.’ The dignity of work, and people who embrace that are happy their entire lives, because they love — they never look at work as work. It dignifies them, whatever job they have.”
Regardless of the result on Saturday, Krzyzewski and the Hurley family will maintain the mutual love and respect.
“It’s just been a relationship for years, and he’s the standard for what you like to be as a coach at this college level,” Hurley said of Krzyzewski. “You know, he set the highest standards.”
“We get along really well,” Krzyzewski said. “Look, obviously, we want to beat them, but it’s an honor to play against them. And, win or lose, you can be sure I’ll hug him and wish him well if they beat us, and, you know, wish them well if we beat them. But we’ll go after each other hard, I know that.”
Much harder than Krzyzewski and Duke went after the younger Hurley brother 25 years ago.
“I think there was some token recruitment,” Hurley said. “I don’t even think I ever got a home visit, though. Let me change that. I eliminated them from my list early on. So, I didn’t want that. Too successful.”