Rhode Island men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley may be less known around Sacramento than his brother, Bobby, a former first-round pick and guard for the Kings in the mid-1990s.
But for Dan, the younger brother, it is still significant being in Sacramento for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as the 11th-seeded Rams will play No. 6 seed Creighton on Friday at Golden 1 Center. It’s the first tournament appearance for Rhode Island since 1999.
“Emotional for me, just because my last time here I was watching my brother cling to his life in a hospital room surrounded by his family,” Dan Hurley said Thursday.
Bobby Hurley was the No. 7 overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft by the Kings out of Duke. On Dec. 12 of that year, just 19 games into his rookie season, Hurley suffered severe injuries in a car accident while driving home from Arco Arena following a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Hurley’s injuries reportedly included collapsed lungs, broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade. Talking to reporters at Golden 1 Center on Thursday, Dan Hurley said seeing the “Sacramento” sign at the airport this week brought back memories of the aftermath of the accident for his family, his throat catching as he said: “I’m going to keep it together up here.”
Hurley’s return comes under happier circumstances. Rhode Island snaps an 18-year NCAA Tournament drought Friday, and when the Rams take the court, Bobby Hurley will be on hand to watch.
“I really didn’t even think of it from that standpoint and how Dan felt,” Bobby Hurley said in a phone call. “I mean, it’s not surprising. He’s a very emotional person and we care about each other a great deal. I think for me it’s just happiness to get a chance to watch Dan coach in the tournament.”
Both brothers emphasized the closeness of their basketball-centered family. Bobby, who coaches at Arizona State, said he and Dan talk so often during the season about their respective teams “that I think we almost feel like we go through both seasons together.” Dan said he also calls his father, Bob, a high school coach who is in the Naismith Hall of Fame, after each Rhode Island game.
“Kind of one-track minds there,” Dan Hurley joked. “Not well-rounded people, unfortunately. We even dragged my mom into it. She was the scorekeeper.”
Bobby was the more accomplished player, setting the NCAA record for career assists at Duke. But he was never the same after the accident, his career ending after just five NBA seasons. He said this will be the first time he has watched a game in Sacramento since the Kings traded him to Vancouver in February 1998.
“It was where I realized my dream,” Bobby Hurley said of Sacramento. “I remember putting the jersey on and the exhilaration of that feeling. And I remember that second year, after I put in so much work, to get back on the court and to get out on the floor and play again and do what I love to do.
“And the whole way the fans always supported me, so I always appreciated that. Yeah, I didn’t have the success I’d hoped for as an NBA player. But that doesn’t take away from the positives here. Two of my daughters were born here, and I’ve got a lot of great reasons to love the area.”
Prior to his current job at Arizona State, Bobby Hurley spent two seasons coaching under his brother at Wagner and was an assistant coach in Dan’s first season at Rhode Island in 2012-13, when the Rams were 8-21.
Two years later, Rhode Island made the NIT. This season, they finished 24-9, winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament and won eight consecutive games to end the season and go into the tournament as one of the field’s hottest teams.
“I was with him the first year at Rhode Island, so I know the conditions of the program in terms of just where they stood,” Bobby Hurley said. “To have that strong class he recruited with E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin, and to see him build it from the ground up, just very proud of him and what he’s fought through.
“He deserves this so much. So I’m just excited to be here to watch it.”