Bobby Hurley is extending his deal in the desert, and that is the best piece of news ASU basketball could receive for its future.
Gathered in a room of Arizona State fans, faculty and players at his team’s banquet on Thursday afternoon, Bobby Hurley was, for a moment, the center of attention.
Reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, onlookers celebrated collectively at the recent affirmation. Their head coach wasn’t about to leave. He was here to stay.
“I am thankful to President Crow and Ray Anderson for entrusting me to lead the basketball program at Arizona State,” Hurley said in a Twitter post. “My family and I are proud to be Sun Devils and want to remain at Arizona State for a long time.”
In a week where one of ASU’s key pieces, Luguentz Dort, had already departed for the NBA, fears of Hurley’s exit were imminent. Had the fourth-year coach made the move to St. John’s — a program 34 minutes away from his hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey — the Sun Devils’ progress over the last two seasons would’ve been stunted.
Or, in the grander scheme, another promising Arizona sports team plummeted into a rebuild.
But in a move that prioritized foundation, one that advocated for growth rather than a restart, Hurley took the next step to becoming one of the Valley’s sports icons. That is, being one to stick around for the long run.
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In Arizona, that doesn’t happen very often. Coaches often leave or are fired before the long-term. Look no further than Bruce Arians — who was esteemed in his five years with the Cardinals — as a recent example. Igor Kokoskov could be on the other end of the spectrum with the Suns.
When coaching football or basketball at ASU, those realities are the same. Todd Graham and Herb Sendek — who each led successes — were both let go when things weren’t good enough. More often than not, these can be unfair pressures to live up to.
Hurley has already been exposed to that. This year, he clashed with ASU’s fanbase, which drew only 9,517 fans to a 91-70 loss against Washington State on Feb. 7. That came one week after drawing the second-highest game crowd in Wells Fargo Arena’s history, 14,731 fans, to see the Sun Devils beat Arizona for the first time in Hurley’s tenure.
“Very low response to a team that is having a winning season, a successful season, a team that’s in position to go to the postseason,” Hurley told 12News after the WSU loss. “It’s important to have a good crowd and to have a crowd that’s behind you when you’re doing well, and I believe we had won four of five and were playing pretty good going into last night’s game.”
It is this fair-weather perception that has led some to believe Hurley hasn’t done good enough. That, in spite of leading ASU to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 1980-81, tying the program’s highest national ranking (No. 3) and contributing the top two season attendance marks ever, the Sun Devils could still be doing better.
It needs to stop.
Certainly, there are valid questions about Hurley’s first four seasons. Are there games ASU should’ve won that it didn’t? Yes. Have there been times when he has been out-coached? For sure. Are there moments where he can be erratic on the sidelines? Absolutely.
But not every program can reach instantaneous success. Especially ASU, which has long buried itself in the shadow cast by historic programs in UCLA and Arizona.
What some may fail to realize is the reasoning behind these heightened expectations. It’s Hurley. When he was hired in April 2015, the wheels were set in motion.
“We are here to set a new standard, to make regular trips to the NCAA Tournament and regularly compete for conference and national titles,” he said in a statement obtained by azcentral.com.
So far, he has been a man of his word. The Sun Devils have improved their Pac-12 mark in each of Hurley’s four seasons, reaching the No. 2 spot in 2018-19. Even if it was a ‘down’ year, there was no regression.
ASU also swept its series with a storied program (Kansas), beat Arizona twice and won its first NCAA Tournament game in a decade. Those things don’t just happen in Tempe.
So, as Hurley extends his time with ASU, believing in what has been built and what is to come, that faith should be reciprocated. This is success that warrants the chance of continuity.
Hurley plans to build ASU’s program for the long-term. This is the best outcome for the future.