Bobby Hurley was still shaking off the loss to West Virginia and starting to decompress after the most successful season in UB history when he took a moment Friday to acknowledge the masses. His simple message, via Twitter, also offered a peek into his immediate future.
“What a group of Men!” Hurley wrote. “It was an honor & a privilege coaching this team! We are just getting started- thanks 4 all the support Buffalo.”
In two seasons at the University at Buffalo, Hurley has morphed from an unproven, inexperienced coach to a valued commodity whose stock is soaring. He has done a terrific job with UB and is certain to attract attention from bigger schools in better conferences that can offer him more money than he’s making in Buffalo.
He’ll leave someday, but he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. If I were a betting man, every penny would be placed on him sticking around for at least another year. It would not be shocking if he stayed another two years, and it’s quite possible he could be here even longer.
For now, anyway, UB fans can relax.
You’re never completely sure what’s going through another man’s mind, but I’ve been around Hurley enough to gain an understanding of him. He’s confident in his ability but incredibly grounded given the size of his name. He carries himself like an iron worker. He’s not a big-timer. There is no act.
It’s almost as if his fame and persona don’t match up. The coach you see storming the sidelines and barking at officials is much different behind the scenes. He’s quiet and humble away from basketball. The next time he comes off egotistical will be the first. And it becomes more evident when you meet his family.
Hurley took the bus home Friday night from Columbus but was back on a plane Saturday afternoon for a spot on CBS with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Clark Kellogg. If he’s using his name for anything, it’s to raise the profile of his program and show recruits that Buffalo can be a basketball destination.
He hasn’t given any indication that he’s looking for the exit. None. Zero. In fact, it has been the opposite. Since his first day on the job, his only agenda has been building UB into a consistent winner. He has been genuine since he arrived, so when he says, “We are just getting started,” there is no reason to doubt him.
But what about the money?
Too often, people think bigger contracts equate to better jobs and grounds for departure. It’s not always the case. It’s certainly not true with Hurley. Spend 20 minutes with his father, a probation officer by day and greatest high school coach in history by night, and you understand Hurley wasn’t raised to chase a buck.
Alabama, George Mason and DePaul are among the schools that are looking for new coaches. All play in better leagues than the Mid-American Conference. They should be interested in Hurley, who likely would make more money than he would if he stayed in Buffalo. It doesn’t mean any of the jobs would be an upgrade.
For the foreseeable future, UB is his best fit.
Hurley makes $300,000 in base salary. He also gets 25 percent of the gate after UB collects the first $300,000. It’s enough to keep him happy. He’ll make more next season once the bonuses and attendance clauses are added up. UB might need to tap into its alumni resources and show him the university understands his value.
Buffalo knew he would eventually leave, but it was a win-win. If he does his job the way he expected, he’ll outgrow Buffalo and make plenty of money. His heart is with UB. He’s invested in his players and grown comfortable with the community. He’s executing his master plan and wants to see things through.
For his sake, he should.
Understand, saying Hurley should remain has little to do with helping the university. That’s obvious. Staying would be the smart play for his coaching career, too. He needs to prove he can recruit players and develop them over a larger sample size. There’s something to be said for stability. It behooves him to stick around.
Hurley has been here for two very good seasons, and stacking another would further enhance his reputation. He has a 42-20 record and one NCAA Tournament appearance. It’s impressive, but UB is expected to be even better next season. He would be even more attractive with 25 more wins on his resume.
It’s an opportunity to show he can win consistently in a place like Buffalo, which isn’t known for college hoops. The experience he takes from here, lessons that can only be learned over time, will make him that much more prepared when the right job opens. And the right job for him would be …
Mike Krzyzewski turned 68 last month. He has more than 1,000 victories over his 40 seasons. He’s might be the best coach in any sport in history, but he’s not going to last forever.
If he can make the leap from Army to Duke in 1980, Hurley can make the same jump from Buffalo when Coach K retires.
Hurley would be an easy sell for Duke. He was among the best players in program history, and he was revered for his basketball intellect. His daughter Cameron, named after Cameron Indoor Stadium, is a freshman there.
Johnny Dawkins has averaged 22 wins over the last four seasons at Stanford. Steve Wojciechowski just finished his first season at Marquette. Both are heady point guards, like Hurley, who worked under Krzyzewski. Hurley is now in the conversation when that time comes.
The longer Krzyzewski coaches, the more experience Hurley gains, the stronger he will become as a candidate. Hurley understands where it can lead him as much as anybody. For now, it’s best for everybody that he stays put.