Wagner, that tiny college from Staten Island, is now looking for its next coach after Hurley took the job yesterday at Rhode Island. The Rams were 315th of 345 D-I teams last season in field-goal percentage, while Wagner was off to a 25-6 record in Hurley’s second season.
Why should you care? Hurley’s small-scale success at Wagner could get real big, real quick.
The year before Hurley took over the team was 3-15 in the Northeast Conference. So when all Hurley did was start 9-4 in the NEC in his first year, it was bound to catch attention. By the time he finished this season, when the Seahawks turned down the College Basketball Invitational in the postseason, he was bound to get snagged by a bigger school. This happens all over the place in sports; it’s a natural coaching evolution.
He didn’t see success like the landmark Pitt win coming: “No chance. No chance,” he told me.
The difference is Hurley could stick because of the cache he holds with his name and his connections he can hold with the best prep players.
The Atlantic 10 has its traditional top tier in Temple and Xavier, but there’s “no chance” the Rams won’t improve dramatically (think a St. Bonaventure run) under Hurley because of how well he knows the elite high school circuit. His father, Bob, is the legendary coach at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey, and Dan made St. Benedict’s a peer by turning out J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Samardo Samuels and Lance Thomas, to name a few.
Here’s what he said in December in our Q-and-A:
I have to say thanks to all the big guys I’ve coached at St. Benedict’s because they got me to where I could get this job. If it wasn’t for their talent and skill and way we won, I don’t think a college in their right mind would have hired me. Early on in recruiting we sold that because a lot kids we were recruiting knew of Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Lance Thomas. They know those names and have seen them. We use that early but now, I think, our recruiting is what we want to accomplish at Wagner. we still have a long way to go.
His teams play a high-scoring offense (50th in the countryat 73.4 a game) that recruits like, and he’ll have his brother, Bobby, still on his staff. The Hurley brand name will continue, and success should follow to Kingston.
Hit page two to read as Hurley gave “The Pitch” for Dime #68 (on newsstands now), telling why everyone – at the time – should consider going to Wagner.