Hurley brings HOF presence to Newton North

NEWTON, Mass. -- The last time Bob Hurley came this close to Boston for an organized basketball tournament, books were written about the experience.

St. Anthony’s vs. Durfee, 1993, in New Bedford. Bill Reynolds recounted the experience in ‘Fall River Dreams.’ Hurley, St. Anthony’s veteran coach, said another, ‘Pride and Loyalties,’ told the story from the Friars’ viewpoint.

“And in the two books, there was a sharp contrast between the behavior of the two groups,” Hurley said with a smile. “It was a very loose group, that Durfee group. And my group, we had Roshown McLeod, who played in the NBA.”

Hurley remembers winning by 15 or 18 points over Durfee, which went on to win a state championship behind Chris Herren.

With more than 30 years filled with 25 state titles, hoards of Division-I prospects and efforts to keep St. Anthony’s open, Hurley has every reason to be nostalgic. Then again, he spent most of time following Wednesday’s 72-48 victory over Catholic Memorial talking about his team’s rebounding and offense.

“Playing well and playing are two different things,” Hurley said Wednesday at Newton North’s Garden City Classic. “So we played tonight.”

Re-routed to Newton after their scheduled trip to a Canadian tournament was canceled, the legendary prep program -- ranked in the top 10 nationally this season -- and its equally legendary coach are doing what all other high school teams do this time of year.

Hurley is evaluating. The Friars are playing without injured stars. One player even forgot his home uniform for the trip, so he didn’t play Wednesday either. They have the same hurdles, and then they have different ones. Hurley said St. Anthony’s has to raise $1.2 million annually to stay open, no easy feat while other urban Catholic schools around the country and tri-state area are closing.

Hurley sees it. Two of his best players -- the Rutgers-bound Myles Mack and Kyle Anderson -- transferred to St. Anthony’s after nearby Patterson Catholic closed its doors. But that’s a rarity, he said. They’re the only ones not “home-grown” who came up through St. Anthony’s JV and freshman programs.

“We’re a tiny, urban Catholic school,” Hurley said. “We don’t really have any advocates. We have to just do whatever we can to keep the mission going.”

St. Anthony’s does have help. Reebok provides equipment and clothing to the program, and Justin Kittredge, a marketing manager for the company in Massachusetts, contacted Newton North coach Paul Connolly to help get the Friars to Newton. Hurley also does instructional DVDs for Shooting Touch, a Boston-based non-profit that donates proceeds from each DVD sale to the school.

Of course, it also has Hurley, elected this year to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In his Hall bio, he’s described as “a strict disciplinarian who demands total commitment, self-control, and sacrifice both on and off the court.”

While talking to reporters Wednesday, he didn’t even skip a beat when he saw his players walk by.

“Take the hat off,” he said to one. Then to another, “Take your hat off.”

They quickly did without a word.

“I wanted the kids to learn from the experience of playing a national powerhouse,” Catholic Memorial coach Denis Tobin, whose team actually led St. Anthony’s by a point after the first quarter and trailed by just one early in the third. Then the Friars ripped off a 13-0 run.

“They’re clearly one of the best teams in the country,” Tobin continued. “I was proud of the effort that my guys put forth and I think we’ll be a better team in February and March because of it.”

Hurley has the same line of thinking. St. Anthony’s (4-0) plays in the second day of the Garden City Classic tonight.

“In high school basketball, you’re just playing to get better,” Hurley said. “I think that’s good for us, because it’s made us try to find out what this group could be good at. And after watching us play (Wednesday), I’m not sure what that answer could be right now.”