UB's Bobby Hurley accepts head coaching job at Arizona State
Men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley accepted the head coaching position at Arizona State Thursday.
Hurley, who coached Buffalo for two seasons, did not answer The Spectrum’s calls to his cellphone but released a statement saying he plans to set a new standard of winning conference and national titles at Arizona State.
“While it was an extremely difficult decision to move on from my team in Buffalo, this is a tremendous opportunity and I want to thank [Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson] and [Arizona State President Michael Crow] for selecting me as the leader of the ASU men’s basketball program,” Hurley said in a statement. AZCentral, an Arizona-based breaking news website, reported Hurley’s deal is for five years but his salary is not yet known.
Assistant coach Nate Oats has been named Buffalo’s interim head coach.
Hurley signed an extension with UB until the 2018-19 season in September. The contract had a base salary of roughly $250,000 per year plus other incentives such as 25 percent of all ticket revenue after the school sold more than $300,000 worth of tickets.
According to a clause in the contract, if Hurley terminates the contract before March 24, 2019, he must pay Buffalo half of the remainder of his annual salary, which will be roughly $500,000.
None of UB Athletics’ staff answered phone calls Thursday night. The Spectrum, therefore, was unable to speak with any players currently on the team’s roster.
UB Athletics released a statement from Athletic Director Danny White Thursday thanking Hurley for his time as coach.
“We would like to thank Bobby for his contributions growing our men’s basketball program,” White said in a release. “It is important for us to continue to build on the success with a new leader and I am extremely confident that we will find a leader who can take our program to even greater heights.”
The players were told of Hurley’s departure in a team meeting with White on Thursday, according to Fola Branco, a sophomore psychology major and practice player for the Bulls. Branco said some players were in “shock,” and were talking about “whether they want to leave [UB] or not,” but some also understood Hurley’s decision.
“At first I’m hurt, but at the same time too, it’s like family. You want him to do what’s best for his family,” Branco said. “We made history here so that’s something they can never take away from us. But on top of it too, it’s sad but at the same time you got to move on.”
Hurley had been rumored for head coaching positions at schools like DePaul and St. Johns over the past month after he guided Buffalo to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The appearance came after the program’s first-ever Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship. Buffalo fell 68-62 to No. 5 seed West Virginia in the Round of 64.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s “SI Now” on March 31, Hurley said he felt he would be the Bulls head coach next season and said he was “just focusing on Buffalo right now.” Hurley also told ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd that his “heart is still in Buffalo” on The Herd on March 31.
Deputy Director of Athletics Allen Greene told The Spectrum in March that UB Athletics had a deal in place with Hurley to make him the highest-paid coach in the MAC, but Hurley had not yet signed the contract.
Buffalo donors had rallied to raise money to increase Hurley’s base salary for a new contract in the hope he wouldn’t leave for a different school. Greene told The Spectrum in March the use of donor money could help keep coaches in Buffalo at a price that works for the Athletics Department.
“The less burden we could put on the institution in order of financial resources, the easier it is for us to retain some of these coaches,” Greene told The Spectrum.
Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News tweeted that Hurley was offered $551,000 per year – $1,000 more per year than Ohio head coach Saul Phillips, who just completed his first year at Ohio with a 10-20 record.
Gleason reported Hurley was “insulted” by UB’s approach to the new contract and was angered that UB sources may have leaked to the media that the contract was finalized when it was not.
Graduating senior forward Will Regan declined to speak with The Spectrum, but tweeted Thursday night: “Change is opportunity! Coach did a great job and will continue to, just like Danny White and his staff. Ohh yeah, X [Xavier Ford] and I are still MAC Champs.”
Regan told The Spectrum in March that the team would like for Hurley to come back, but that “you put faith in the administration to do the best they can to keep him … It’s a business and there’s nothing you can do beside that.”
Hurley has been Buffalo’s second-most expensive head coach for the past two years, behind former football head coach Jeff Quinn. Hurley’s base salary was $250,000 in 2013 but he earned $336,669 including benefits and bonuses paid by the university and third parties.
Branco said some players want Oats to become Buffalo’s permanent head coach. Oats arrived in Buffalo with Hurley in 2013 after 11 seasons at Romulus High School outside Detroit, Michigan. Oats won the school’s first-ever state title. He coached current Bulls junior forwards Justin Moss and Raheem Johnson and freshman guard Christian Pino at Romulus.
Assistant coach Levi Watkins will join Hurley at Arizona State, according to AZCentral.
Jonathan Mitnik, a junior exercise science major who won this season’s free tuition giveaway promotion, said watching Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament was amazing.
“It opened up a new aspect to the Buffalo community, showing that we do have a D-1 basketball team,” Mitnik said. “But we’re also competitive and we plan on being competitive. [Hurley] showed the community that side of UB Athletics.”
Alessandro Carusone, a sophomore communication major, said while “you can’t blame Hurley” for leaving Buffalo for potentially more money, it’s also “a cruel reminder from the business side.”
“We’re the ones that gave him a shot and this is how he repays us?” Carusone said. “It’s unfortunate my university had to be on the short end of the stick.”
White hired Hurley in March 2013 after firing 14-year head coach Reggie Witherspoon. White’s father, Kevin White, is the athletic director at Duke, where Hurley was a star point guard on two national championship teams. Hurley is the NCAA all-time leader in assists.
In two seasons as Buffalo’s head coach, Hurley amassed a 42-20 record, including two MAC East titles, one MAC Tournament Championship and one NCAA Tournament appearance.
Carusone said he hopes Hurley plays against Buffalo in Alumni Arena so Buffalo can show it’s not “a stepping stone anymore.”
“I don’t want it to be a résumé builder,” Carusone said. “I want this place to be the best in the nation.”
The Bulls are a member of the MAC, which is considered a Mid-Major. Arizona State is a member of the Pac-12, one of the Power Five conferences.
Arizona State fired Herb Sendek as its head coach on March 24. Sendek finished his Arizona State career with a 159-137 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances and four National Invitational Tournament appearances during his tenure.
Last season, Arizona State went 18-16 overall, finished with a 9-9 record in the Pac-12 and lost in the second round of the NIT. Over the last three seasons, Arizona State went 60-40 with a postseason tournament appearance in all three years.
Multiple players have left the Bulls prematurely throughout Hurley’s two seasons. Junior forward Jamir Hanner was removed from the team shortly before this season for “a violation of team rules.” Sophomore guard Deyshonee Much also left the team before this season and transferred to Iona in January. There were rumored reports this week that freshman guard Bobby Frasco will transfer from Buffalo.
Sophomore guard Mory Diane was ruled academically ineligible for this season after four games.
Despite Hurley’s departure, Branco had positive things to say about Hurley as a coach.
“He was more of a father figure. It’s not like a regular coach; he kind of talks to us like he’s one of us,” Branco said. “I say sometimes he’s like a kid at heart. You can talk to him about anything, relationships, schoolwork. He’s a great down-to-earth guy.”
Arizona State has scheduled a press conference to introduce Hurley for 10 a.m. Friday.
This story has been updated to reflect new information.
Tom Dinki is the senior news editor and Jordan Grossman is the senior sports editor. Both can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org