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Jerry Costello

  A Servant to the Entire Community
                Bob Hurley is back in the news. Again.

                I wrote about Hurley last year in this space. The source then, as it is now, is a column about Hurley by Tara Sullivan in The Record, a leading northern New Jersey newspaper. At issue are his efforts to keep St. Anthony’s of Jersey City—his high school—open for business. That was the issue last year, and somehow he managed to pull it off. But that might not be the case year after year.

                Hurley takes no salary for his positions at the Jersey City school. Nothing. It’s all plowed back in his efforts to keep the school open, an undertaking that occupies his mind day and night. That’s “positions” at the school, plural, for he’s in his second year as president of St. Anthony’s. In addition, he’s the school’s basketball coach. (You can add the word “legendary” to the coaching part of it; he’s got 28 state titles and counting. His list of former players who’ve made it to the NBA include his sons, Bob Jr. and Dan, now coaching college teams of their own.)

                Keeping the school open (the Newark Archdiocese will only guarantee it for the school year beginning in September) has become a mission for Hurley.

                “They’re coming here because it’s a good value for getting yourself to college,” he says of his students—many of whom come from disadvantaged neighborhoods. “The mission is to educate the neighborhood kid who wants to go to Catholic school at an affordable price.”   

                That price is now $6,150 per year—a bargain, but well beyond the means of many of Hurley’s enrollees. It costs the school about $14,000 a year to educate each student. To make up the difference, Hurley donates not only his salary, but the money he makes from speaking engagements. And he puts together dinners each year, as he did this year, with guest speakers like the two New York Giant quarterbacks, Eli Manning, current holder of the title, and Phil Simms, now a broadcaster. With tickets ranging from $300 to $750, that’s a lot—but it may not be enough.

                An alumnus of the school, Rashon Burno, now a coach at Arizona State, spelled it out. “Without St. Anthony,” he said, “Jersey City would lose a sanctuary. You’d lose a national monument, but that’s the public perception. For the kids, it’s a safe haven, like a lottery ticket to better their lives.”

                Tara Sullivan used her column to describe the attraction of schools like St. Anthony: “A quality education with small class sizes, personal attention and a heavy focus on preparing for college, that struggle to maintain quality amid the labyrinth of church and local politics.”

                And at the heart of it all is Bob Hurley, president and still coach—as Burno, his former player, explained:

                “A lot of people misconstrued it all these years, and for me I realized it years later, that it was never about basketball for Coach Hurley. That was just a vehicle to give back to the community. That he’s taken on a role to impact others just solidifies what I already knew about the man: that he’s about more than just basketball. He’s a servant to the entire community.”



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