COLUMBUS, Ohio — At 43, Bobby Hurley is 18 years and 719 victories behind the other Bob he’ll be coaching against in the NCAA tournament.
But their sideline animations sometimes look like a separated-at-birth situation.
“I kind of toe the line,” Hurley acknowledged Thursday after his team’s shoot-around at Nationwide Arena. “Last year it was just trying to figure out what I could get away with and what I can’t. I think this year I’ve done a better job of getting my message across and then knowing when to pull back.”
Pulling back? Twice this season Hurley was T’d up before the first media timeout.
Given the perception that West Virginia’s fouls are too numerous for officials to catch, and that bang-bang calls can season-ending, might Hurley be on detonation-alert?
“This is really not the setting,” he said. “I know how hard this game is going to be—and how West Virginia is going to be coming after our players—that I’m going to need to be completely focused on helping them get through this game in any way I can.”
Hurley’s name is circulating as a possibility for power-conference jobs, including some where there’s yet to be a vacancy. But admittedly he’s still growing into his current job, albeit at a pace as fast his team plays.
“His first year, first head coaching job, he was learning how to push our buttons,” said senior Xavier Ford. “He picked up the intensity a lot this year. He stepped up and has been more aggressive and confident in himself.”
When Buffalo served as Kentucky’s opening foe at Rupp Arena, Hurley took the unusual step of wearing his second national championship ring from Duke. (“Before that game, I said I think I need something extra here for my confidence to go into that place.”)
Lo and behold the Bulls led at halftime—with Justin Moss flushing a dunk over Willie Cauley-Stein—and Hurley has sported the confidence bling ever since.
Now that Buffalo will be ordering MAC championship rings, Hurley warned his athletics director he better spring for a crush of diamonds similar to the Duke version.
And in another nostalgic nod, Hurley the coach thinks he can learn from what Hurley the player did in preparation for NCAA pressure.
“For me it was trying to calm down,” he said. “So I’m going to try and be as composed and calm with my team as possible.”