St. Anthony (Jersey City) principal and basketball coach Bob Hurley had hoped to celebrate his school’s 100th anniversary this year. Instead, after announcing the school would close at the end of the school year Wednesday, he’s trying to find a new home for his 150 or so students.
“We could have had a celebration this year,” he said. “The one thing that will be fun is we’re going to have our last event in White Eagle Hall (where the Friars once practiced) and we’re in the process of firming up a date, for what was going to be a Hall of Fame dinner. Now it’s going to be a ‘Thanks for the Memories’ thing that we’ll run in the bingo hall that was a legendary place in New Jersey.
“A lot of things need to done now. We have faculty replacement, we need to move kids, we need to empty the building, pay the vendors. The statement is made, but life goes on until the end of the school.”
Hurley, a three-time ALL-USA Coach of the Year and the third high school coach to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, coached the Friars for 50 years, winning 28 state titles and sending 150 players to Division I basketball scholarships.
Hurley said the school will not become a private school, as the former St. Patrick’s (Elizabeth) did five years ago when it reformed as The Patrick School in Hillside.
“We’ve been doing things since the late-80s to raise awareness and finances,” Hurley said. “Here were are in 2017, so that’s over 25 years and now we turned down the opportunity to go charter school. We wanted to keep the religious base of the education, so we tossed that opportunity. It’s come to the point where we need to accept what’s happened to almost every other small urban Catholic school. We’re followed the same course that Power Memorial and Tolentine and Rice and Paterson Catholic, all the other schools near New York City that closed before us. We kept it going as long as we could.”
As for Hurley, who turns 70 this summer, he said he’d like to set up a recreation program in Jersey City to keep children off the streets.
“My initial feeling are that I’d love to keep the use of the gym downtown, set up a foundation and put some money into the foundation to rent this gym,” Hurley said. “And then with the help of the recreation department, start running a lot of grassroots basketball with the younger kids here in town.
“With the closing of the Catholic schools, so many in Jersey City grew up with what we used to call little guys, then biddy, then they would go on to grammar basketball and then they would use the recreation department for practices and free play and then the Boys Club and kids were constantly playing.
“Now, there’s not a lot of things going on and we have things going on in the streets that are alarming. Three o’clock in the morning last week, a 13-year-old and 15-year-old were shot. A big part of it is the drug dealers and gangs are getting to these kids at a younger age. You’re either you’re a shut-in or you’re out on the streets and young kids should not be out on the streets. We’re going to hopefully get that started in addition to other things.”
Hurley said finding spots for his underclassmen players isn’t the problem, but he has a whole school to think of.
“We have to deal with the emotion of this change, not that it is unexpected,” Hurley said. “We’ve been in this intense battle for so long. I’m already starting to receive calls from other schools about placing students. My kids who aren’t basketball players, those are the ones we’re worried about. Our tuition is about $1,000 less than the other (Catholic) schools in the area, so it will be difficult for some.”