For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators; from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.
As basketball coach at St Anthony’s High School, Bob Hurley has amassed an impressive record: 1100 career wins, 27 state championships, and 4 National championships.
But in this small Catholic high school in Jersey City, his most admirable statistic has been achieved off the court: only two of his players didn’t attend college after graduation.
Known to some as “the Patron Saint of Saint Anthony’s,” Hurley has spent 42 years as head coach in a community often caught in a cycle of gang violence and poverty. As a former probation officer, he brought his old-school discipline to the basketball court. He imposes curfews, bans long hair and has no tolerance for bad attitudes.
He has also fed his athletes, found them jobs and brought them on vacation to his family’s house on the Jersey Shore. He dedication to the community has seen him turn down higher-paid college coaching jobs to remain in a school of around 260 students.
In 2010 Hurley was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. And while his success has long been recognized in the basketball community, he was nominated for the Unsung Heroes list to celebrate his contribution to Irish America.
And as he enters his 42nd year as coach his fight is far from over. His current project aims to raise $10 million to guarantee a future for the school.
As Hurley puts it, “Our mission isn’t to win basketball games; it’s to create life-changing opportunities for every student who walks through our doors.”
To learn about yesterday's Unsung Hero, who helps low-income workers save for their futures, click here.