With Bobby Hurley on board, there is genuine excitement around Arizona State basketball

Apr 10, 2015, 2:33 PM | Updated: 4:26 pm
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Just when it looked like the Arizona State men’s basketball head coaching search was headed south, the school announced the hiring of Bobby Hurley Thursday.

The former Duke point guard and Buffalo head coach is a nice Plan B for Ray Anderson and Arizona State.

Anderson was patient with his apparent first choice, Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel. Two full weeks passed between the firing of Herb Sendek and the end of Duke’s season, which ended in a fifth national championship Monday night.

Capel realized he didn’t want to leave Duke and kept ASU hanging for two weeks before sharing that realization.

That’s OK. I like this hiring better.

There are many similarities between Hurley and Capel. They both played under legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. They both have fathers who have been successful head coaches.

But the biggest difference between Hurley and Capel is experience. Although he’s three years younger than Hurley, Capel has nine years of college head coaching experience on his résumé after guiding VCU and Oklahoma to NCAA Tournament bids. Hurley has two years of experience as a head coach and only five years as a college coach total.

Looking at the above paragraph, you’d probably come to the conclusion that Capel would have been a better, safer choice for Anderson. That’s not necessarily the case.

That’s because unlike Capel, Hurley hasn’t failed at the major college level. After his Oklahoma team featuring Blake Griffin reached the Elite Eight in 2009, the Sooners fizzled out the next two years, going 27-36. Capel was fired. Critics cited his failure to reload the roster after Griffin’s departure to the NBA following his sophomore season.

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it ASU fans? There were plenty of critics who attacked former ASU head coach Herb Sendek for the same reason. Yes, Sendek got James Harden to Tempe for two memorable seasons. But once he left for the NBA in 2010, there wasn’t another blue-chip recruit waiting.

Sustainable success has been hard to achieve at ASU, just as it was difficult for Capel to accomplish at Oklahoma.

In 2013, Hurley took over a Buffalo program that had zero history. It had never been to the “Big Dance.” As far as I can tell, it had produced exactly one NBA player — Sam Pellom — and he retired in 1983. In just two years, Hurley guided the Bulls to a MAC championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

His career trajectory is heading in the right direction. He’s a big name in the world of college basketball. While 18-year-old recruits don’t have memories of Hurley’s maestro-like point guard play for Duke in the early 90s, their parents sure do. And it’s pretty hard not to notice a guy who’s wearing two championship rings when you shake his hand, isn’t it?

That’s not to say that Hurley’s arrival in the desert will automatically elevate the Sun Devil program to new heights. The reality is, there is a lot of work to be done, especially in the areas of recruiting and marketing. But the 43-year-old seems to be just the type of guy who can roll up his sleeves and get dirty doing what needs to be done.

I’m genuinely excited for the future of Arizona State basketball. It’s the first time I’ve been able to say that in a long time.

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With Bobby Hurley on board, there is genuine excitement around Arizona State basketball