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Bob Hurley Sr. commands respect when he enters a room. 

Whether it's a steamed up basketball gym or this weekend's Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, MA, Hurley's presence evokes a Pavlovian reaction of eyes fixed and mouths closed.

"Different...unique...old school," former St. Anthony's High School guard Jio Fontan recounts.

Fontan transferred to USC from Fordham, but he learned his craft under Hurley in Jersey City, NJ, like so many greats over the coach's 35-year hall of fame career.

"He's done a great job with adjusting to not only the different kind of players, but as times changed, he's coached in so many decades," said former pupil Fontan, who guided St. Anthony's to its third national title under Hurley in 2007-08.

This weekend, Hurley will become just the second high school coach inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame joining DeMatha's Morgan Wootten.

Hurley has cultivated some of the nation's best high school talents, including his son Bobby Hurley and another former Trojan Roderick Rhodes, but he's effected many more lives off the court than on it.

"Life is a big game, but you got to play it the right way," said Fontan of a Hurley life lesson.

Fontan is lucky enough to have a father figure in his life, but many of his teammates needed Hurley to fill that role.  Even so, basketball and St. Anthony's changed Jio's future.

He grew up on the streets of drug-infested Paterson.  "Pretty much seen everything until age 11 or 12 and then I stayed away from the streets and really got more focused on AAU basketball and preparing for high school basketball."

Hurley's style is to build up his young students off the court, but to break them down on it.

"He'll let you know that you're really not that good and bring you down to earth...not even down to earth, probably below earth.  It hurts at the time, but you know it's for the better."

Fontan is grateful for the tough love.

"I look at where I am now at USC, beautiful school, beautiful campus, I'm thankful for all of it."

The Galen Center feels along way away from the "White Eagle," St. Anthony's famed former practice gym, which doubles as a bingo hall, but USC coach Kevin O'Neill makes him feel at home.

"They have some similarities.  They can both spazz out," Fontan compared his old and new coach.  "Their determination to win is definitely a similarity."

Fontan hopes to bring that winning mentality to USC, but he'll never forget his humble roots and the hall of famer who helped pave the way.

With more than 900 wins, 25 state championships and countless young lives changed, it's about time.

"Obviously, I think he should have been there a little earlier, but it's a great thing.  It just feels like him making it is like a part of one us making the Hall of Fame."

USC PG Jio Fontan grew as a basketball player and a man under Hurley.
Hurley_school.jpg

 



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USC is One of the teams with terrific team colors.

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