Akron basketball coach Keith Dambrot waxed philosophical Tuesday night about the job University at Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley is doing and how he is perceived in the Mid-American Conference.
Dambrot, in his 11th year with Akron, acknowledged there’s jealousy among MAC coaches toward Hurley and said he’s a big fan of the 43-year-old, second-year UB coach.
“I like their team,” Dambrot said. “I like their team better than most of the teams in the league because of their toughness level. They play just like he did.”
“There’s a lot of people in this league that are very jealous of him. But I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a professional player that has unbelievable competitiveness and desire to be a great coach. Nobody has more respect in this league from him than me. He’s got that chip on his shoulder that I love. People can say whatever they want about him, but he’s one of the most competitive guys that’s been in this league in awhile.”
Hurley is intense on the sidelines. Dambrot says he thinks that rubs some people the wrong way. Actually, Hurley has toned down his sideline demeanor significantly from last season, his first as a head coach. Hurley got seven technical fouls last year arguing calls. This year he has three technical. It’s obvious he has made a concerted effort to push the officials less.
“I just think because of his personality type, his demeanor,” Dambrot said. “Don’t be misled by that demeanor, he just wants to win. But those guys play their behinds off for him, right? So obviously they like him, and they respect him. And I like him. I don’t know why I just kind of gravitate to guys like him.”
“Now I was never as good a player as him, not even in my dreams, but I have that same competitive desire he has. I just think he’s done a heckuva job. He’s rallied them when they lost those three games in a row.”
Then Dambrot was asked about the progress UB has made under Hurley. He took the question to mean Hurley’s prospects for an eventual promotion. Dambrot is a good talker and was being honest. One got the feeling that in the back of his mind, maybe he wouldn’t be unhappy if Hurley got plucked away by a bigger program down the road.
Said Dambrot: “Yeah, the problem’s going to be for you guys is his pedigree, right? He’s got such great pedigree that for you to keep him is going to be hard. He’s not like a 56-year-old Keith Dambrot who’s from Akron that doesn’t want to go anywhere else. This guy’s Bobby Hurley, man. Everybody knows who Bobby Hurley is. Listen, I’ve been around this league. I know he can coach. He’s not one of those pro guys who can’t coach.”
“They’re putting money in too. This is an arms race, too. You’ve got to put money in. When I first came to Buffalo nobody was here. It was a hard place to play because nobody was here. Now you’ve got all those students. I watched that Kent State game on television and I’m thinking, ‘Jeez this is a hard place to play.’ . . . I feel like their program is one on the rise.”