The elite fraternity of basketball coaches to win 900 games added a new member on Dec. 14 as University of Cincinnati Clermont College head basketball coach reached the milestone with the Cougars 72-69 win over Rio Grande.
“It’s really kind of a relief,” Hurley said of his 900th win. “It’s a time to reflect and look back on my career and remember the great players, great teams, the assistant coaches and the administrations that have helped me along the way.”
Hurley has built quite the basketball résumé beginning with his playing days at Bowling Green State University from 1959-63. From BGSU, Hurley moved onto become an assistant coach at Ohio University while he was earning his master’s degree in physical education and school administration.
“The most fortunate thing for my career was the time I spent at Ohio University as an assistant,” Hurley said. “I had the opportunity to coach under Mike Schuler. He was an assistant for Bobby Knight and went on to coach the Portland Trailblazers.
“And there was Dale Bandy. I learned a tremendous amount from those guys and soaked up a bunch of their basketball knowledge.”
Following his time at OU, Hurley coached Milford High School’s basketball team from 1971-76 where he accumulated 103 wins. Following his stint at Milford, he was hired on as the head coach at Cincinnati State. Hurley also helped launch the athletic program at Cincinnati State, which had previously been a strictly technical school.
Hurley stayed at Cincinnati State for 26 years, winning 554 games along the way. While at Cincinnati State, Hurley’s teams won the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference championship nine times and the National Junior College Athletic Association regional championship four times.
Hurley came to UC Clermont in 2004 and had an immediate impact. Starting in his first season, Hurley led the Cougars to five consecutive Ohio Regional College Conference Championships from 2004-2008. Hurley capped off the run with a United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship in 2008.
During his stay in Clermont County, Hurley added 243 wins to get on the cusp on 900 career victories. After securing win No. 899, the Cougars dropped two-straight, something Hurley believed was brought on by the pressure of 900.
“I think it was a combination of things,” Hurley said about why 900 didn’t come right away. “We took off five days for exams and then when we came back, the burden of 900 wins was on the minds of the players.”
The Cougars lost to Berea on Dec. 9 in double overtime and then to Asbury on Dec. 10 by three points at a tournament the Eagles’ hosted in Wilmore, Ky.
“We probably played our best game of the year at Rio Grande,” Hurley said of his 900th win.
With all his success at the junior college level, some may wonder why Hurley didn’t move on to greener pastures. For Hurley, it came down to family and a fondness for the area.
“I had some opportunities while I was at Cincinnati State to coach some Division II teams and some NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) schools,” Hurley explained, “but with my family situation here in Cincinnati, we all liked the area and didn’t’ want to pick up and go.
“And I’ve always enjoyed junior college coaching. I like developing players and having them move on. It’s something I really enjoy seeing.”
Coach Hurley has been honored with all types of awards over his 40-plus year career including multiple “Coach of the Year” awards and inductions into three Halls of Fame, but crossing the 900-win barrier was something that was a testament to his long-term success as a coach.
“I have a lot of coaching friends that haven’t had the opportunity to continue coaching,” said Hurley. “I’ve had that opportunity and I certainly appreciate that. I’m lucky to have the ability to continue to do something I really love to do.”
The type of success Hurley has enjoyed over his career doesn’t come without its fair share of dirty work.
How many of the winningest coaches in the game mop their own floor?
“When you’re a small college coach, you’re involved with it from the public relations side to the maintenance of the gym,” Hurley said. “There’s not the same amount of people here as there are at Division I schools. If the floor needs to be mopped, you mop it.”
In capturing his 900th win, Hurley will have his name in the same sentence as coaching immortals such as Bobby Knight, Pat Summit and Mike Krzyzewski. Asked about how he felt to be considered in the same company as those great coaches, Hurley downplayed his accomplishments.
“It gives me a lot of pride to be mentioned with those people,” Hurley said. “I’m smart enough to realize I’m at a different level, but the game is the game. It’s basketball and it’s not that much different.”