Former Duke star Hurley coming to Rupp next season as Buffalo coach

jtipton@herald-leader.comJuly 2, 2014 

MAC Buffalo E Michigan Basketball

Bobby Hurley led Buffalo to a 19-10 record last season and a first-place division finish in his first year coaching the Mid-American Conference school. His Bulls play in Rupp Nov. 16.

TONY DEJAK — AP

Bobby Hurley, an accomplice the memorable night Christian Laettner beat Kentucky, seemed to run into a mental screen when asked about coaching a team against UK in Rupp Arena next season.

"I would assume that (momentary chuckle), I'm not sure how I'll be received," he said Wednesday after Kentucky announced its non-conference schedule, which includes a home game against Hurley-coached Buffalo on Nov. 16.

Of course, Hurley made a name for himself playing point guard for Duke. Although he played well against Kentucky, he missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation in the historic 1992 East Region final.

"For all the shot-making and clutch play I did have there, it never happened at the end of games," Hurley said of his Duke career. "That was usually Christian's department."

As UK fans know all too well, Laettner rose to the occasion, making a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to give Duke a 104-103 overtime victory and a berth in the Final Four.

"Such a tough shot to take" probably makes Laettner the villain for Kentucky, Hurley said. If not that shot, surely Laettner tapping his foot on the chest of a fallen Aminu Timberlake will always draw the ire of UK fans.

Yet, Hurley, who had 22 points, 10 assists and five three-point baskets in that game against the Cats, somehow managed to gain a bit of infamy that transcends Kentucky and continues to manifests itself.

"I seem to still be a lightning rod at places I've gone the past year," he said of the 2013-14 season, his first as Buffalo coach. "I'd rather be a lightning rod than the fans possibly targeting our players."

When asked where he drew taunts and barbs last season, Hurley said, "Just about everywhere I went in our (Mid-American) conference. I felt it."

As to why he's a lightning rod, Hurley noted his assertive, hard-nosed playing style.

"If you like Duke, you probably liked how I played," he said. "If you didn't like Duke, you probably hated me."

Hurley has been no stranger to Kentucky. As a fan of racing and owner of horses, he became a familiar figure in the thoroughbred industry. He's found Kentuckians to be pleasant, if still harboring "genuine, really strong feelings" about the so-called Laettner game.

"I'm proud to have been part of that game," he said.

Buffalo's game at Kentucky next season is exciting, he said, "because I know the passion of the fans."

In his first season as head coach, Hurley guided Buffalo to a 19-10 record. The Bulls won their first MAC division title.

Buffalo lost its two leading scorers, MAC Player of the Year Javon McCrea (18.5 ppg) and Joshua Freelove (13.0 ppg). The Bulls' effort to re-tool is expected to be led by Shannon Evans, who made the MAC's all-freshman team last season, and senior-to-be Will Regan, who averaged 10.5 points and made 37.6 percent of his three-point shots last season. Buffalo expects incoming freshman Lamonte Bearden to develop into a productive player.

"I don't think we're going to take a huge step back," Hurley said. ". . . I would assume we would contend. That's where my mind is at."

Hurley, who turned 43 last Saturday, sounded like the typical coach when asked about the game at Kentucky, which is part of UK's Cawood Ledford Classic. Coincidentally, the Duke-UK game of 1992 was the last in Ledford's iconic 39-year run as Kentucky basketball's radio play-by-play announcer.

Now a coach, Hurley wants his team to be tested in Rupp Arena and gain experience that can pay dividends later in conference play.

"Having young guys and new players, I want them to face some adversity on the road," he said. "I think we'll be able to accomplish that."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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