St. Anthony High School, home to one of the most successful programs in high school basketball, will close its doors at the end of the school year.
Spearheaded by Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley Sr., the Jersey City, New Jersey, school had attempted to raise enough funds over the past several months to stay open another year. It was a plan that had worked previously, as the school has had financial issues in the past.
"After months of consultation with the Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Newark, today the Board of Trustees of Saint Anthony High announced it would not be possible for the School to meet the prescribed requirements of the Archdiocese to remain open," the school said in a statement Wednesday. "Accordingly, the School will close at the end of the school year."
In a letter posted on the school's website, Hurley -- now the school's president, in addition to its boys' basketball coach -- pointed to slowing enrollment as the primary reason behind the closing.
"Even with fundraising that will generate close to $1.5M by the end of June, this amount is still insufficient to maintain operating expenses and cover debt payment to the Archdiocese," Hurley wrote. "In addition, the projected enrollment for 2017-2018 does not provide the revenues required to operate the school going forward. Population changes in Jersey City and the surrounding area have adversely affected Catholic school enrollment in the past several years. Competition from special programs in public schools as well as newly formed charter schools have also eroded enrollment."
Hurley became the basketball coach at St. Anthony in 1972. He has won 28 New Jersey state titles since he took over; no other school in the nation has won as many. He was named national coach of the year three times, in 1989, 1996 and 2008.
St. Anthony has produced a long list of college stars and NBA players, including Kyle Anderson, David Rivers, Terry Dehere, Rodrick Rhodes, Roshown McLeod, Jerry Walker and Josh Moore.
St. Anthony has an enrollment of about 160 students. It has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for seniors over the past two decades.
Hurley said the archdiocese recently gave the school that looks out onto the wealth of the New York City financial district nine conditions that it had to meet to stay open.
The 69-year-old Hurley said six conditions were met and a seventh was possible, but there was no chance the school would get 200 students for next year or have $500,000 in its bank account by September.
Hurley said the school owes the archdiocese roughly $1.2 million and would have to raise $1 million to meet all of its bills.
The decision didn't come as a surprise. Hurley said he knew it was coming, barring a major donation.
Still it hurt.
There were times when Hurley's voice trembled and his eyes teared during Wednesday's news conference.
"Rarely does a school the size of St. Anthony's merit this, but it should, because basketball made you find out something about the place that the families of the nonathletes know," Hurley said. "That they've gotten a good education."
Hurley stressed that education costs only $6,100 and that the school maintained a low tuition for years, allowing parents to save for college. And it was all the students, not just the athletes, who were the beneficiaries.
"Those things speak for themselves," Hurley said. "That's what we hang our hat with, what we've done. Is it extremely sad? Yes. It's brutal. It's absolutely brutal."
Rosemary McFadden, a member of the board of trustees, said the closure will cost 27 members of the staff and faculty their jobs.
Hurley said the school would work with the underclass students to find alternate Catholic school choices, which might be hard because many of the low-income parents in Jersey City -- New Jersey's second largest city and easily its most diverse -- just don't have the money.
Nearby St. Peter's Prep has a $17,000 tuition.
According to St. Anthony's website, the enrollment is 70 percent male and 70 percent African-American. Hispanic-Latino students make up 15 percent, 9 percent are multiracial, and Caucasian and Asian students are each at 3 percent.
Senior point guard R.J. Cole said the past few weeks have been tough on the students. He knows he is going to Howard next year. Others are now in limbo.
"Everybody comes to St. Anthony's for a home," Cole said. "This is a great academic school and a great basketball school."
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop called the closure devastating and a tremendous loss for the community.
"Saint Anthony's had a reputation that went far beyond the national recognition as the best boys' high school basketball team in the country. It was known as a place that provided students from an urban area a strong academic and moral education and the skills to become future leaders," he said. "We are all saddened by this news."
Walker, who played on the 1989 team that included Hurley's son Bobby and was considered one of the school's best, said he didn't know where he would have been without St. Anthony. He grew up in one of Jersey City's toughest sections and went on to get a college degree and build an after-school program in Jersey City that keeps kids off the streets.
He went to the school just before Wednesday's announcement and stood and listened to Hurley address the media. Walker said the closing of the facility takes away one of the greatest coaches of all time.
"I think it's a big blow," Walker said of Hurley. "He sets the tone for basketball and athletes; all the coaches want to be like him."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.