F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote these words shortly before his death in 1940 and Americans have spent the past 70 years proving him wrong. In 1992, point guard Bobby Hurley reached the apex of a spectacular first act of his American life, leading Duke to its second straight National Championship with a 71-51 victory over Michigan.
Danny Hurley (as he was then known) had his own first act that ran off-Broadway, serving as a point guard for Seton Hall and struggling to live up to the expectations associated with following a legendary brother into the family business. On a rainy night in Philadelphia, while Bobby's former team once again faced Michigan in a nationally-televised tournament game (this time in the Maui Invitational), the Hurley brothers continued to write their second act, as Head Coach (the now) Dan Hurley and his Assistant Coach (the forever) Bobby Hurley led the Wagner Seahawks into the Palestra to face Penn.
The Palestra was barely one-fifth full for the first-ever meeting between the teams. From the outset, it was apparent that the similarities between the clubs went well beyond their matching 3-1 records. Each team started a three-guard attack and employed an aggressive man-to-man defense designed to neutralize the other team's all-conference star. Senior Quaker guard Tyler Bernardini drew the primary assignment of stopping first-team all-NEC guard Tyler Murray (14.3 ppg), while sophomore guard Kenneth Ortiz faced the unenviable task of stopping two-time first-team all-Ivy guard Zack Rosen (22.8 ppg).
While Murray shared ball handling duties with his fellow guards Ortiz, Latif Rivers and substitute Chris Martin, Rosen began nearly every Quaker possession handling the ball 90 feet from the basket with a Seahawk defender (usually Ortiz) in his face the entire length of the floor and several others looking to help should he shake free. The constant pressure appeared to rattle Rosen early, as he twice stepped out of bounds while receiving a pass and took an offensive foul out of frustration, shoving Ortiz after absorbing a shoulder-check that was uncalled by the officials. At the half, Rosen had only six points and the Seahawks, with a balanced attack paced by Latif Rivers with nine points, led 37-28.
Any fears that the game would turn into a rout were quickly allayed as Penn went on 14-3 run to begin the second half, capped by a Zach Rosen jumper to give the Quakers a 41-40 lead. A 7-0 run by Wagner followed, but was quickly matched by five straight points from Rosen, taking advantage of a trip to the bench by Ortiz and cutting the Seahawks lead to a single point with 8:56 remaining. From there, the teams stayed evenly-matched, with Penn briefly holding a 51-50 lead and ties at 53 and 55 before a Chris Martin three-pointer gave Wagner a lead it would not relinquish. Wagner converted all six of its free throws in the final minute and a missed three-pointer by Rosen with six seconds remaining ended Penn's chances. A meaningless last-second layup by Murray provided the final margin of victory as Wagner prevailed 71-65. Rivers led Wagner with 18 points while Murray was held to his average of 14 points. Rosen scored 23 extremely hard-fought points for Penn and was embraced in the handshake line by his mentor and former high school coach at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, Dan Hurley.
As we watched pre-game warmups, my friend Seamus and I focused on the presence of Bobby Hurley, remembering the Duke teams that we had watched as ninth-and-tenth-graders and wanting to see how he would act now, on the sidelines and below the red line. It took very little time for our attention to turn, however, to Dan Hurley. Working the referees, his team, and even Zack Rosen (after Rosen embellished contact to draw a blocking foul, I saw the coach look at his former player and yell "that's a copout" with a look of disgust on his face) nearly every play, Dan Hurley was no longer the little brother of the first-round draft pick and the son of the legendary high school coach. He was a coach clearly in control of his program and the leader of a team that looks very ready to compete in the NEC this season.
As the victorious Seahawks headed to the tunnel, Bobby Hurley, the legend-turned-Assistant Coach, was accosted by a middle-aged autograph-seeker waiting with a pen, a mini-basketball, and an awkward series of backslaps to remind him of past glories. While Bobby handled the situation with the good-natured aplomb of someone used to a life in the spotlight and happy with a hard-fought victory, Dan Hurley hung back along the bench and looked at the court for a few extra moments, the second act of his American life progressing just fine.
The Miracle of Saint Anthony
WAGNER 71, at PENNSYLVANIA 65 11/22/2011
WAGNER 4-1 (0-0) -- T. Murray 5-12 2-2 14; K. Ortiz 1-10 1-2 3; L. Rivers 6-9 4-4 18; J. Williams 2-7 1-1 6; N. Folahan 1-3 3-4 5; C. Martin 4-8 1-1 11; O. Parker 3-4 0-0 6; J. Thompson 1-5 6-7 8; M. Burton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-58 18-21 71. PENNSYLVANIA 3-2 (0-0) -- M. Cartwright 4-11 1-2 9; Z. Rosen 6-11 10-10 23; R. Belcore 2-6 0-0 4; T. Bernardini 3-7 8-12 15; F. Dougherty 3-5 0-0 6; C. Crocker 1-1 0-0 2; H. Brooks 1-4 0-0 2; M. Howlett 1-2 0-1 2; M. Kukoc 1-2 0-0 2; P. Lucas-Perry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-49 19-25 65.
Three-point goals: WAG 7-11 (C. Martin 2-3; T. Murray 2-4; L. Rivers 2-3; J. Williams 1-1), PENN 2-13 (T. Bernardini 1-3; R. Belcore 0-2; Z. Rosen 1-4; M. Cartwright 0-3; M. Kukoc 0-1); Rebounds: WAG 27 (J. Williams 6), PENN 28 (R. Belcore 6); Assists: WAG 13 (K. Ortiz 4), PENN 14 (T. Bernardini 4); Total Fouls -- WAG 21, PENN 23; Fouled Out: WAG-C. Martin; PENN-None.