Saints Perform Miracles

On large screen televisions in living rooms and bars across the United States Wednesday night, sports fans got to learn first-hand about the “Miracle of St. Anthony,” and the Saint who made it all happen – Bob Hurley.

The introduction of Bob (Bob Hurley Wins Best Coach at ESPYS 2017) captured some of the man’s dedication to his players, and his success.  It didn’t capture what he did for the thousands of students who attended St. Anthony High School and didn’t play basketball, which was equally impressive.

We chronicled the plight of the school at the hands of the Newark Archdiocese here (Faith? I Lost Mine Last Week.) a few months ago.  It is widely rumored that the Archdiocese will receive about $15 million for the land St. Anthony’s is built on.  We speculated what might be done with the proceeds.  My bride has a great idea on how a portion should be spent, which I will close with.

Immediately after the Archdiocese decided to shutter the school, Bob Hurley went into a full court press, calling other schools asking them to take his students.  The 140 or so freshmen, sophomores and juniors at St. Anthony will be attending schools like Mater Dei, Roselle Catholic, Ranney, St. Peter’s Prep, Marist, Don Bosco, Immaculate Conception, and Christ the King – all because Bob got on the phone and pitched for his students.  And amazingly, almost all – with a few exceptions – will be charged the same tuition the students paid to attend St. Anthony.

And his coaches are moving on as well…to Perth Amboy, Marist and one out to Sacramento.

What’s next for Bob?  He can’t leave Jersey City.  He’s forming a non-profit organization, cut a deal with the City to rent a gym in downtown Jersey City and start an after school program for kids who need someplace to go to stay off the streets.

“It’s going to be a grass roots thing,” he said.  “I want them to learn how to play, but also have exposure to other sports.  We’ll run some clinics for them, bring in some speakers, provide education about the dangers of drugs…things these kids down here need.”

That’s the real “Miracle of St. Anthony.”  It’s “The Guy” who for almost his entire life – along with his wife Chris – dedicated himself to helping a community…and students…who needed help.

And what was the thanks the Archdiocese gave him?  The day after the last day of school Bob went back to St. Anthony to walk through the halls one more time…and found that the locks had already been changed.

Now to that to that great idea from my bride to the Archdiocese:  take a portion of the $15 million and pay for the high school education of those 140 students who just lost their school…and their Saint.  It’s a small consolation, but for all those students, it will help.

Faith? I Lost Mine Last Week.

I was speaking with a good friend Thursday about the Catholic Church. He’s left it. I’m right behind him.

He and his wife gave up when his local parish kept asking for money, and they saw no improvements in their church…the school…or their programs.

Turns out the money was going to settlements the Church had made with victims of abuse by priests.

Then last week the Archdiocese of Newark decided to shut St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.

All St. Anthony’s has done since the 1950’s is provide a great education for students who otherwise can’t afford one…sent all of its students to college for the past 20 years…and been built on the backs of my good friends, Bob and Chris Hurley. Yes, the school and Bob have become legendary in high school basketball circles. But this school is about much, much more than basketball.

Those kids in that accompanying picture are students of St. Anthony High School. Great students. Students who came to a scholarship dinner last week…worked the crowd as well as any high school student I’ve met…and made the people in attendance ask how they can help.

The Archdiocese wanted St. Anthony to have $500,000 in the bank before next school year, and then said it needed the school to increase its enrollment. With stories circulating for a year that the school might be forced to close, how many parents were willing to take the chance to enroll their children in a school that might not be there? That was a clever political ploy by the powers that be in the Archdiocese – powers that wanted St. Anthony shut…but knew the Bob Hurley legend made it a public relations nightmare.

The $500,000 is an interesting number. It matches the cost of the addition on the home of the diocese’s recently retired Archbishop.And by the way. That’s a home with a market value of close to $2 million. He lives there alone.

So what’s more important? An addition with an indoor swimming pool for the retired leader of the Newark Archdiocese? Or a great school for kids who truly need an opportunity in life?

It would appear Newark never got the directive from Pope Francis about taking care of the flock first.

On Bloomberg this week, Joe Nocera wrote the best piece about the issue I had the chance to read.

It’s a view reiterated to me by the Athletic Director at another Catholic High School. Schools need to realize they have to be run as if they are businesses.

But as Nocera points out, the Archdiocese should have been helping Bob Hurley and St. Anthony’s do that. They – when you look at corporate America – are the “corporate entity.”

I wish – for all those great students at St. Anthony High School – that the Pope would take this one personally. The Newark Catholic braintrust has put money…and politics…ahead of the well-being of hundreds of students.

I can’t agree with their decision. And that has me disgusted with the Newark Archdiocese leadership…and therefore, the Catholic church.

Forgive me, Lord, but this one is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

How To Make It Overseas

Randy Reed Shares His Story on Becoming a Professional Basketball Player

Prior to signing with IPZ, Randy Reed was persistent in his pursuit of making his dream come true – to become a professional basketball player.

Reed finished out his collegiate career at the University of Omaha in March 2016, but knew he wasn’t ready for his time on the hardwood to come to a close.

One year later, his dream is a reality.

Reed signed a professional contract with Jeunesse Sportive d’El Menzah in September 2016. Since arriving in Tunisia in early October, Reed has put together an impressive rookie season, averaging more than 20 points per game. In February, he was selected to the all-star game in which the best foreign players squared off against the Tunisian National Team.

He shared his formula on “How to Make it Overseas.”

  1. Immediately after finishing college career, get a highlight tape and full game film.
  1. Get in contact with agents, owners, consultants, and players, gathering as much information as possible.
  1. Go to an exposure camp. If you perform well at your first, only play in that one and be sure to get film from it. It’s not recommended to participate in more than two.
  1. After finding an agent, wait patiently and grind. Grind every single day. Do a ton of research on the different styles and rules of FIBA basketball.

As a rookie without the biggest college or the greatest stats, it can be very frustrating, but you have to trust God and trust the process. Stay humble and stay hungry. Remember the dream and learn from the people before you that seeing another country for an extended period of time is incredible. A lot of people never leave their state – let alone the country – and even less people are able to play the sport they love professionally.

March Insanity…But What About The Students?

One of the most fun – but most scrutinized – jobs in sports has to be picking the 68 teams in the NCAA basketball tournament.

The pundits suggest the group got the 68 right this year…although with the usual complaints from those who didn’t make it and are instead relegated to the NIT.

But in a perfect world, I’d have a wish…that it was easier for the students who supported their teams all year to do the same in the Tournament.

My dad always told me common sense was the most important thing you could bring into any decision process. So how could the NCAA make the tournament more student friendly?

I guess that would require being more true to “regions” than “seedings.”

The basketball talent on the court is amazing. But so are those students who support the players. I love the enthusiasm, the emotion, the “Fat Heads” in the stands, and the chants to support their teams…and irritate opponents. The students make college basketball. My oldest daughter went to Wake Forest and she always hoped she had saved enough money to go watch her school play.

This year, Seton Hall was seeded 9th (in my book, not fair) in the South region.  OK – Seton Hall is in South Orange, New Jersey. But that’s not exactly the southern part of the United States. 

Wisconsin wound up in the East…and some of that region’s games are in that great Eastern shore town of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There are 10 teams from the East and South in the West region of the tournament…a region that is playing games in Buffalo and Orlando.

The Midwest? UC Davis, Miami, Rhode Island, Oregon, Iona and Jacksonville State have all been relocated.

The South? In addition to Seton Hall, Minnesota, Cincinnati, UCLA, Kent State, Dayton and Wichita State have all had their zip codes questioned. Oh…and some of the South games are being played in Sacramento and Milwaukee.

I know it’s a tough job. And you can’t pick neutral sites three days before the tournament starts, and thus some of the sites are cast in stone years in advance.

But I would love if the NCAA could come up with a solution to have early round games more geographically sensitive…especially for the students who want to go see their teams play.

What West Virginia student can afford the $456 for a flight (Monday’s price) to Buffalo?

Could a Rhode Island student afford the current $644 tab for a flight (Sunday’s price) to their team’s game in Sacramento?

I wish there was a way for the NCAA to help those college students who make college basketball great; it would make the tournament affordable and even better.

I hate seeing those early round games with thousands of empty seats in full view of the cameras…seats that could be filled with the students who help make the game so exciting.

P.S.: Loved seeing the CBS cameras Sunday focus on our Board Member Bob Hurley, and his wonderful wife Chris, hugging as URI – coached by their son Danny Hurley – won the A10 Tournament title.

Lies My Father Told Me

No, my dad never lied to me. In fact, he’s the person I’ve most respected for my entire life.

Back in 1975 or ’76, I was back in New Jersey for a day courting my future bride. I had the day off from my sports writing job, and we decided to take in the above titled movie at the Loew’s Journal Square Theatre in Jersey City.

It’s a huge “old school” style theater…and we were the only people there. That gives you an idea of how successful the movie was.

But the story was sincere…about a boy and his grandfather, and his difficult relationship with his father, and it stuck with me. Lucky me, I always felt, that I never experienced that.

Over the past three months, I’ve met numerous parents…and some grandparents…of young men and women currently playing college sports and who hope one day to have the opportunity to play professionally.

It’s been heartening…and crushing.

For the most part, the parents are wonderful. A dad in North Carolina asked all the right questions, with his only concern being the future for his son. A couple on the West Coast was adamant that the individuals and firm who they would retain to help their sons needed to focus purely on the boys…not the parents. How’s that for refreshing?

But every now and then I’ve hit a roadblock – never from a player (or grandparent)…but occasionally from a parent. They undoubtedly know their child better than I do. But they also suddenly – regardless of their profession – know how to provide the best professional counsel for their children better than we can. And my concern for them is simple: what is nothing but love and a great relationship right now…could sour once business decisions start being made.

My dad – that guy who never lied to me – once saw me wasting considerable time trying to fix something on my car. “Robbie,” he said, “sometimes the most important thing you can know is what you don’t know. And that’s when you should ask someone you trust what you should do.”

Last week, I was sharing some of my recent experiences with a friend who’s the editor of a business magazine. He mentioned that a rerun of the great ESPN piece, Broke, had aired that weekend. It’s an eye-opening piece that every young athlete…and their parents…should watch. (And I love seeing some of my old friends from the media in the film.)

Unfortunately, dad (“Gramps”) is no longer around or I would ask him to come with me on some of these recruiting visits, and tell some of his stories. He was always a lot more convincing than I was. For now, I’ll just keep accentuating the realities about what young athletes might face, and how we might be able to help…and let ESPN remind folks of the dangers.

Revis Island – Another Perspective

I board a late flight one night in early 2016 from Newark to Fort Lauderdale — had a couple of meetings in Florida and took a day on each side for some work in the sun.

I sit in my seat and the guy next to me — dressed well and very polite — nods hello.  I do the same.

As passengers board (the male passengers), a number of them say, “Yo, Revis, how are you man?  Great season.”  He simply nods a thank you.

Then the buzz begins.  

“Hey, man, you’re sitting next to The Island.  You know how lucky you are?”

I nod.

But after the third guy approaches me — with three hundreds in his hand and asks me to trade seats with him — I say, “Listen, leave the guy alone.  And besides, I’m a Giants fan.”

Revis chuckled…softly…and later said, “Thanks, man.”

We hardly talked…and nothing about football…as we taxi’d out to take off and left Newark. He had a place in Hollywood, Florida, and that’s where he was heading.  We talked a little about the Hollywood Broadwalk, which as a Jersey guy I absolutely love.  And that was it.

But once the “fasten seat belt” sign came off, the vultures started circulating.

He handled the fans and his admirers beautifully.  The best “executive coach” would have been proud of the way he did it.  Smiles…brief answers…a look back down to the text book he was reading to show he wanted to get back to work…and the fans understanding that because of the class way he handled it.

One question from a fan did strike me, as did the way Revis responded.

“Yo, ‘Reeve,’ who’s the best quarterback in the league?”

He smiled…hardly paused…and said, “Tom and Peyton.”

“OK.  Figured that.  But which one is better?”

Revis paused, and then said, “I have to go with Tom.  I had the chance to play with him for a year.  There isn’t a better leader in the locker room.  He’s the best.  Peyton is amazingly accurate.  But Tom is a great leader.”

While I’ve always respected Brady, that comment from Revis made me realize how great a quarterback he must be.  But more importantly, it was the way Revis answered the question — straightforward…sincere…and candid.

I saw Revis at the opening party for the Barcelona soccer club New York office a couple of months later.

I walked up to him and said, “you shouldn’t remember me…but I sat next to you a couple of months ago on a flight to Fort Lauderdale.”

I got a big smile.

“I remember,” he said.  “You wouldn’t sell your seat.  Thank you.”

I’ll stay hopeful the news of the Pittsburgh incident is overblown.  My impression that night was this is a good guy…a guy who realizes that athletes — in their actions — need to re-pay fans for their support …and who seemed to understand that some kindness and patience eventually gets rewarded.

SPORTS AND FAMILY

It’s amazing the things we remember.

I was 12 years old, playing first base for the CJ Murphy team in the Bayonne Little League championship game.

Tommy Wise, who was a great basketball and baseball player (later played briefly for the Montreal Expos), was on the mound for us. It was the bottom of the 1st, and after a walk and a strikeout, the next batter, a right-handed hitter, swung late on one of Tommy’s fastballs and hit a line drive down the first base line.

In one of the easiest plays someone could ever be handed, I caught the ball moving toward the bag, stepped on first and completed an unassisted double play.

The first thing I did? Looked into the stands to see my dad, making sure he had seen it…and it was a moment we could share.

Dad used to come to my games…whatever the sport or level. We would go to games together, watch games on television together, talk on the phone about games together.

I loved it…and later loved it, albeit differently, as I watched my daughters compete in their rec, high school and — for one — college sports. I never wanted to miss a game (even if I didn’t completely understand those fencing matches, or field hockey games…and softball was a bit tedious). But soccer and basketball were great to watch, and I penciled in those dates on my calendar as soon as the schedules came out.

So given the opportunity to team up with Interperformances, a leader in the basketball world, it was too good to pass up. And now, as the exclusive US representative of Interperformances, we’re fortunate that so many great people are lending their talents and knowledge to the new company, InterperformancesUSA (or IPZ for short).

And for some insight into the reason we did this, check out “The Barn,” a special place for our family.

Interperformances has been a powerhouse in the basketball world; our goal is to build on that prowess, and build a bigger and stronger entity in the United States. We’re off to a fast start…and hope you will all wish us luck as IPZ grows, based on integrity, family, and life.