St. Anthony boys basketball coach Bob Hurley instructs his team during a game against Egg Harbor Township earlier this year.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

Bob Hurley's high school basketball coaching career led nowhere.

At the same time, it led everywhere.

Hurley is in his 40th season as coach of the St. Anthony boys basketball team in Jersey City. Hurley grew up in Jersey City and still lives there.

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Although he has remained in the same city, Hurley turned the Friars into a national power and one of the country's most famous programs.

They have won 27 state championships, 12 Tournament of Champions titles and 76 straight games. Hurley is one of three high school coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Hurley, 65, started coaching St. Anthony when he was a student at St. Peter's College in Jersey City.

"It led to a very unusual life," said Hurley of coaching. "My wife and I talk about it all the time, the things that have happened, the Basketball Hall of Fame. We never dreamed of anything other than (living) payday by payday."

Hurley was featured on the television show "60 Minutes" in 2011. A 2005 book "The Miracle of St. Anthony" and a 2010 documentary film "The Street Stops Here" gave an inside look at St. Anthony basketball.

"We welcome the publicity for a different reason than most people think," Hurley said before St. Anthony played at Egg Harbor Township last week. "Catholic education becomes the story. But I don't know what's left. Maybe a Broadway play?"

This season, local teams are seeing more of the Friars than ever. St. Anthony (11-0) will play Atlantic City (11-0) on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. in the Jersey City Armory as part of the Dan Finn Classic showcase event.

St. Anthony beat Middle Township 45-32 on Dec. 22. The Friars won 76-40 at Egg Harbor Township on Jan. 9, and the Friars host Mainland Regional on Feb. 14.

St. Anthony also beat Camden 57-23 at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in Wildwood on Dec. 30.

The joke among local teams is that St. Anthony is trying to earn an at-large bid to the CAL tournament.

"The most heavily populated area in the United States is northern and central New Jersey," Hurley said. "The least populated area in our state is where we're playing the bulk of our games right now. We have a hard time getting games and we appreciate that people are looking to play us.

"It's a big state and it's great for our kids to realize it doesn't end with the PATH train east of Manhattan."

St. Anthony's success is enough to make the program special. But the school survives primarily because of the basketball team.

St. Anthony, like many New Jersey parochial schools, struggles financially. Hurley without hesitation can list the Jersey City parochial high schools (St. Aloysius, St. Mary and St. Michael's) that have closed over the years.

The attention Hurley and the basketball team receives attracts donations. Hurley travels the state giving clinics to various youth and coaching organizations. He travels the country as a motivational speaker for corporations. Hurley donates the money he receives back to St. Anthony.

"We're putting out a good person with values," he said. "People are impressed by how hard we play. We very rarely have any unusual behavior it there is it's probably me more than the kids."

Hurley is a demonstrative and demanding coach. Scenes in "The Miracle of St. Anthony" and "The Street Stops Here" depict him yelling at players and using profanity.

But his methods - which he has admitted in past interviews are not for everyone - work. The school has produced more than 100 Division I college players.

No CAL team has beaten St. Anthony since Sacred Heart defeated the Friars 75-68 in overtime on March 10, 1979 to win the now defunct state Parochial C title. Hurley's sons Bobby and Danny were ball boys at that game. Bobby went on to star at Duke University in the early 1990s. Danny played at Seton Hall and is now the head coach of the University of Rhode Island men's team. Bobby is his assistant.

St. Anthony is known for its stingy man-to-man defense. Teams often have trouble getting the ball over halfcourt against the Friars.

On offense, the Friars are unselfish and fundamentally sound as any team on any level in the country.

"Your kids (by playing against St. Anthony) get a chance to see the right way of how to play the game," Middle Township coach Tom Feraco said. "They are perfect going through warmups. It's how Bob seeks perfection through discipline and hard work. It's the best in the country, and it's him. It starts at the top. He's one of a kind."

The Friars beat Atlantic City 72-42 in last season's Tournament of Champions semifinal. Saturday will be one of the most anticipated regular-season games Atlantic City has played in the last 25 years.

"I think it's a feather in our program's cap to play them (in Jersey City)," Vikings coach Gene Allen said. "We want to see where we're at. We'll use it as a measuring stick. The kids are confident. We'll go up there and let the chips fall where they may."

Hurley is not sure how much longer he will continue coaching, but it doesn't sound like he's going to give it up anytime soon. He worked as a probation officer and then Jersey City Recreation Director but is now retired. He still has plenty of passion during games. He chomps ferociously on gum as he rises out of his seat to instruct a player or disagree with an official's call.

"I'm retired from the real world," Hurley said. "I can't wait to get to the gym every day. My health is good. I've taken pretty good care of myself. I could see myself doing it for a bit. I just don't know what the definition of a bit is. But I think it's awhile."

Hurley almost left St. Anthony in the 1980s to become a college assistant at Xavier University in Ohio, but he remained at St. Anthony to coach his sons. He joked at a Boardwalk Basketball Classic news conference in Wildwood last December that the real reason he's stayed at St. Anthony is "an utter lack of ambition."

But at time when many people struggle to find a job they have a passion for, Hurley found his calling at St. Anthony - a few blocks away from where he grew up.

"I just hope the place doesn't close," he said, "because then I'm really in trouble."

Contact Michael McGarry:


Atlantic City (11-0)

vs. St. Anthony (11-0)

When/where: 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Jersey City Armory as part off the Dan Finn Classic showcase event. The Armory is located at 678 Montgomery St. in Jersey City.

Tickets: $8 for adults and $4 for


Webcast: The contest will be shown live at

Atlantic City update: The Vikings are No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and the defending state Group IV champions. They lost to St. Anthony 72-42 in last season's Tournament of Champions semifinal. Atlantic City allows an average of 43.4 points. The Vikings start forwards Dennis White(12.9 ppg) and Ga-briel Chandler (12.3 ppg), center Jahleem Montague ( 9 ppg) and guards Isiah Graves (9.3 ppg) and Dayshawn Reynolds (9.7 ppg).

St. Anthony update: The Friars have won a state record 75 straight games. Guard Josh Brown is headed to Temple University, while guard Hallice Cooke will play at Oregon State. St. Anthony allows an average of 31 points per game.

Keys to victory: The Vikings must match St. Anthony's defensive intensity. Atlantic City must also limit turnovers and sink more than a few timely perimeter shots.

Dan Finn Classic information: Atlantic City vs. St. Anthony is one of six games being played at the Armory. The event is named after Dan Finn, who died at the age of 23 when he was hit by a car in Myrtle Beach, S.C. His father, Ed, is a Jersey City teacher and basketball referee. Proceeds from the event help high school students pay tuition and other charitable causes.

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