by Ryan Isley
Imagine a 2-year-old stomping his feet and throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a Toys ‘R’ Us because his parents wouldn’t buy him the toy he wanted. That would be Buffalo Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley on the sidelines during his team’s games.
During the Bulls’ 83-71 loss to the Akron Zips on Tuesday night, Hurley put on a show that took away the attention and the spotlight not only from the game, but from his team. Hurley was relentless in his berating of the officials, not just once in a while, but for the entire 40 minutes. It was so bad that every time a whistle blew, people – including the officials – immediately looked at Hurley to see his reaction.
That reaction? It was a sight to behold.
There were times that Hurley’s cheeks matched the rosy redness of Santa Claus, only it wasn’t because he was jolly. There were instances where he resembled Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil, only instead of a cartoon, it was real life.
Hurley spent more time on the floor than most of his players Tuesday night, with much of that time spent yelling at officials or making hand gestures towards them on every call. It was as if Hurley had forgotten that he gave up the uniform and sneakers for a shirt and tie long ago. During each timeout, Hurley spent most of the time in the ears of the officials while his assistant coaches were talking to the team.
There was more than just verbal abuse of the officials as well. When Akron’s Quincy Diggs drew a foul on Buffalo’s Jarod Oldham just 4:04 into the game near the Buffalo sideline, Hurley actually seemed to say something to Diggs. Both downplayed it after the game, with Diggs saying that Hurley asked him if he fouled Oldham instead of the other way around. But when Diggs hit a 3-pointer and drew a foul as he was knocked into Hurley later in the first half, it seemed as if Hurley had even more to say to Akron’s leading scorer on the night.
Hurley’s arguments didn’t appear valid throughout the first half, as his team actually shot eight more free throws and were called for two fewer fouls than Akron in the first 20 minutes. In fact, Hurley should have been thanking the officials because if not for their refusal to call fouls and violations on MAC Player of the Year candidate Javon McCrea, the game might have been over sooner than it actually was.
The reactions and explosions from Hurley continued well into the second half, to the point where Akron fans started chanting “Bobby’s Gonna Cry.” Hurley no doubt heard the chants, as he shot a glare towards the Akron student section – the AK-Rowdies – after a made 3-pointer by the Bulls.
It finally boiled over for the officials with 12 minutes to play, as they gave Hurley a technical foul after warning him just a few minutes prior. At the time of the technical, Akron led the game 51-50. Reggie McAdams made one of the two technical free throws, and Akron went on a 20-8 run to take a 71-58 lead with 3:16 remaining before Hurley and the Bulls decided to draw the game out by fouling.
After the game, Hurley was still not happy about the officiating as he met with the media. When asked if there was an altercation with Diggs early in the game, Hurley denied it but did say he had problems on the night.
“I had my issues with some other people today that weren’t on Akron. I am not going to go into that,” Hurley said, referencing the officials. “It has been a pattern for me this year with some of that stuff, with those guys.”
With that comment fresh in mind, I asked a follow-up question:
“Coach, do you feel like you bring some of that on yourself though with the way you act on the sideline?,” I asked.
Before I could even get the last couple of words out, Hurley was already answering the question.
“No, I don’t. I feel like I see other coaches in my league doing very similar things when I watch film,” Hurley said. “I watch a lot of film so I see everything that is happening all over the league when I watch film and I repeatedly see the same demonstrative responses to bad calls and I feel like I am targeted unfairly and I have been targeted unfairly this year.”
Now, I have seen plenty of MAC games this season as well and while I have seen coaches show emotion and question the officials, I have not seen anyone do it for the entire game as Hurley had done. So I asked another follow-up concerning the technical foul and the timing of it.
“At the same point, do you maybe think you put your team in a bad situation by getting a tech tonight and by being on the officials the entire game?,” I asked.
“I don’t really think that I need to answer your questions about that,” Hurley said, starting to glare at me as if I was wearing a striped shirt. “In my technical fouls most of the season, my players have responded to me because they respect that fact I will fight for them. I don’t think it did because I believe he missed one of two free throws.”
I started to ask another question but was quickly interrupted by the first-year head coach.
“It seemed like it was a big part of the game, though…,” I started.
“I get your joke. You have no idea what you are watching,” Hurley responded.
That was the end of the press conference, as Hurley got up and continued shooting looks at me as he walked away from the table. The stares of daggers continued well after he had exited the room, as he peered in from the hallway, again in my direction. I felt as if the line of questioning was fair and in bounds, even if Hurley felt otherwise.
I am not really sure what Hurley thought was a joke about my question. I didn’t find anything funny about a head coach putting his team in a position where they needed to come from behind because he couldn’t keep his cool under pressure. But then again, it wasn’t the first time this season that a Hurley technical foul has cost his team a game.
Last month in Buffalo’s 74-68 loss to Bowling Green, it was another technical on Hurley that gave the Falcons the opening they needed to pull off the upset. With his team leading 66-64 and just 2:28 remaining, Hurley was called for a technical foul. Bowling Green hit both free throws to tie the game and ended the game on a 14-2 run to win the game after trailing 66-60.
Akron head coach Keith Dambrot has been there, so he has an idea of what Hurley is going through in his first year.
“The only advice I would tell him is he has the pedigree and the future to be a star. He could be Shaka Smart,” Dambrot said. “There is no sense in hurting himself. He has to harness the competitiveness. But he can do it. This is his first year as a head coach. I had 14 technicals the first year as a head coach and I was doing it in the NAIA at Tiffin so nobody saw it. I was probably just the same.”
The Bulls are now 12-5 in conference play and would win the MAC East with a win against Bowling Green on Saturday or an Akron loss Friday to Kent State. But instead of people talking about the team who will be no lower than the No.3 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament, the focus of the game – and the season for that matter – has been the antics of Hurley.
At some point, Hurley needs to realize that what he is doing is hurting his team and garnering a reputation that he might have problems shaking if it keeps up. Instead of blaming others and pointing fingers, he might need to take a good hard look in a mirror in the not too distant future. The petulant and adolescent behavior isn’t helping his team, nor is it earning him the respect from the officials who he constantly lambasts during a game and in his postgame comments.
This is becoming a disturbing trend for Hurley and Buffalo and even for the MAC. Hurley might feel like he is being targeted unfairly, but it would be impossible to not notice his jumping up and down and screaming on the sidelines as if he shares DNA with Jim and John Harbaugh.
Hurley needs to remember that sometimes life just isn’t fair.
And sometimes, you don’t get that shiny new toy – no matter how much you cry.