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Hudy's Hardcovers: The Miracle of St. Anthony

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Hudy's Hardcovers: The Miracle of St. Anthony

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hudy's Hardcovers: The Miracle of St. Anthony

The Miracle of St. Anthony
A Season with Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Gotham Books
390 pages

Not since John Feinstein spent an entire winter with Bobby Knight and his Indiana Hoosiers has a book delved into the day-to-day lives of a coach, his basketball team and the lives of the players and delivered real-life drama in such a way that enraptures a reader as Adrian Wojnarowski’s “The Miracle of St. Anthony” does.

The 2005 release about the Northern New Jersey parochial school boys basketball powerhouse has the reader cheering for every win, weeping when coming face-to-face with factual challenges the players face every day, on their way to winning their 24th New Jersey State Championship.

The miracle of the title isn’t limited to the basketball court; it surrounds the tiny parochial school.

The dioceses eliminated its financial commitments to the school since 1981, one of its pillars, Sister Felicia began fighting cancer for the second time at the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year and its legendary coach, Bob Hurley, wondered if his most dysfunctional group of seniors could ever achieve greatness.

“The Miracle of St. Anthony” is a rough and tough book, both its story, its coach and the lives of its players, but then again this is New Jersey. Every page screams underdog and the lessons learned about overcoming insurmountable odds, making it impossible to put down.

Another miracle is one that stems simply from jealousy by the reviewer.

For The Record of New Jersey columnist, “The Miracle of St. Anthony” was Wojnarowski’s first foray as a title author, having previously collaborated with Bob Klapish and Ken Davidoff in “’98 Champs: The Greatest Season, a Chronicle of the Yankees Amazing Journey to the World Championship.” Many authors, even best-selling authors, have an idea, an opportunity, but it was a rarity that the stars would align for Wojnarowski.

Not only did he have a high school basketball legend in Bob Hurley willing to allow him full access to his program, but as fate would have it, the St. Anthony Friars would go on to win their 24th New Jersey State Title. Wojnarowski would be on hand for the practices, the games, the trips across the nation to cover the Friars demanding schedule and be there as Hurley captured his 800th career coaching victory.

Hurley, the coach, is as much part of “The Miracle of St. Anthony” as any player. Without his endless dedication to the sport, the kids, the program and the school itself, the building wouldn’t exist. In one touching passage when Hurley is asked about who to make a check out to after one of his numerous speaking engagements his response was surprisingly typical, “Make it out to St. Anthony’s School.”

The name Hurley should stand out to any basketball fan, it is Bob Hurley, father of St. Anthony, Duke University and draft pick of the Sacramento Kings. Basketball is part of the family business, Bob at the helm of St. Anthony’s, his wife, Chris, always there at the scorers table, Bobby Hurley staying active in the NBA as a scout and brother, Danny Hurley coaching at St. Benedict’s Prep.

Wojnarowski takes the reader into the highs and lows of the Hurley family, Bobby Hurley’s rise on the court under his father’s tutelage, his national championship days with Duke and that fateful night leaving a Kings game and his subsequent accident, hit by a drunk driver.

Hurley didn’t have to look for players for St. Anthony’s, they found him and like the fiery former Indiana University basketball coach, they knew what they were getting into.

Hurley doesn’t curtail his language, every day attempting to get through his squad, whether it be the self-determined Division I prospect Sean McCurdy who commuted from Connecticut to play at St. Anthony’s or Lamar Alston that left the Friars on two separate occasions, testing the coaches fortitude for more than two years.

The New Jersey probation officer, Hurley, has seen and heard everything, every excuse, every apology and hold his Friars to a higher standard, one that he and his squad’s every year have created into a legend.

For Wojnarowski, the miracle continued as St. Anthony’s finished with a 30-0 undefeated season, its 24th New Jersey State title along with its ninth Tournament of Champions title. The miracle didn’t end on the court, as 11 of the 14 players on the 2003-2004 St. Anthony’s varsity basketball team went on to play basketball in college.

5 out of 5 Hudy Heads

NOTE: A miracle could again be in the work as St. Anthony current resides as the No. 1 team in the USA Today Super 25 boys basketball ranking with a 11-0 record. The Friars haven’t won a New Jersey state title since the miracle season of 2003-2004.


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