The Bobby Hurley era at Arizona State has begun and it is apparent that there is plenty of work to be done before the program is challenging anybody for the conference title. The Sun Devils lost their home opener on Friday night to Sacramento State 66-63 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Whenever a new coach comes onto the scene for a school there is always a buzz with the program, but when the coach has some name recognition like Bobby Hurley there is something a little extra in the air with fans, players, and coaches.
When Hurley was hired in the off-season it was seen as a move to jump start a program that had been stuck in mediocrity and wasn’t making any inroads to challenge their rival to the south, the Arizona Wildcats, who is a national brand in terms of basketball. Those of us who follow college basketball know the past of Bobby Hurley. The competitive former Duke Blue Devil, who led them to a couple national championships, and basically was a thorn in the side of many teams and their fans.
Hurley not only comes with his Blue Devil pedigree, but he had some good success at the University of Buffalo. Buffalo? Yeah, Buffalo. He was named the head coach at Buffalo in 2013 and immediately made an impact on the program. He guided them to a MAC East Division crown and let people know he could coach. In 2014 he built upon that by guiding Buffalo to their first MAC Championship and their first trip to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With that success he became a hot commodity in college basketball and Arizona State was looking for a new coach, after firing long time coach Herb Sendak. Coach Hurley took the challenge of leading and resurrecting the men’s basketball program at ASU.
What kind of team does Hurley have at Arizona State? Well, he has a bunch a guys that are slender, long, and fairly young. Most of the players range from 6’4”-6’7”, with the only player bigger than that being Eric Jacobsen at 6’10”. The experience factor is really there for his players and that is going to create some issues for Hurley to keep the excitement around the program and to get the players he is going to want to have at Arizona State.
The issues at Arizona State that Bobby Hurley faces are big. A program that hasn’t done anything for years, facilities that are not the greatest, and when you put those two things together, you get a fan base that is luke warm at best. The Sun Devils play in front of a half empty arena every game and that has not gone unnoticed by recruits who want to come to ASU, but want to feel like they are supported by the community. It’s a challenge for the Sun Devils that the only remedy is going to be winning and with the current assembled team that is going to be a tough thing to accomplish.
After his first game on Friday night in which his new Sun Devil team lost 66-63 to an upstart Sacramento State team, it is obvious that there is much work to be done before the Sun Devils will be challenging for anything in the Pac-12.
Even though this is a Power 5 program for Hurley, he has the incredible task of molding the young players that he has and somehow getting them to play bigger than they are. As I stated earlier, they are not incredibly big with only one player over 6’7”, so they are going to have to play some very fundamentally sound basketball. That means, blocking out, using some of their athleticism to get to rim and not letting bigger teams set their defense. If defenses are set when Sun Devils go on offense, I’m not so sure they will be able to win with their outside shooting. Their shooting looked sketchy at best against Sacramento State and with a full tilt of Pac-12 competition coming that does not bode well for them.
For the 2015 season Hurley is going to have to get a couple of good wins to keep the excitement level with the fans going and to keep them coming to Wells Fargo Arena. I see a bottom half of the Pac-12 finish, no NCAA appearance, and major reconstruction of a program happening. It just may be a few years until Hurley gets things turned around. He doesn’t have “that guy” that he can go to in a crunch time situation yet. Can he get those guys to come to Tempe? We just have to wait to find out.