Rawle Alkins played for the Holy Rams last year. Keanu Pinder played for the Blue Dragons. Lauri Markkanen? He was in Jyvaskyla, Finland.
They wouldn’t know 45-year-old Bobby Hurley if he broke into their Snapchat.
But most of the 14,500 people who will be at McKale Center on Thursday night know Hurley the way the Hatfields knew the McCoys.
Don’t you just love it?
Arizona’s basketball community hasn’t had an authentic villain, a basketball antagonist, since UCLA’s Don MacLean, and that was 25 years ago. Referee Dave Libbey stirred local passions for a decade or so, and USC coach Henry Bibby, a whiner of note, drew more cries from the bleachers than any of the more successful coaches at Stanford and UCLA.
If there has been an emptiness at McKale, it is that there has been no opposing soul capable of pumping your blood pressure into the red zone. Nobody to boo.
Now comes Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley. He has all the whining, sneering and on-court insolence of MacLean, Libbey and Bibby combined.
We’ve been waiting for someone like Bobby Hurley forever.
A lot of it can be traced to Hurley’s playing days at Duke, including two games against Arizona, when he led the NCAA in fussing. (How’s that for an acceptable F-word?) None of Hurley’s immediate predecessors at Arizona State — not the likable Bill Frieder, not the stone-silent Rob Evans, not the professorial Herb Sendek — could get you out of your seat long enough to yell “GIVE HIM A T!”
Hurley not only got a T in his first game against Arizona, he got two of them. He was ejected from last season’s game in Tempe, and a rivalry was reborn.
A few days ago, he further pushed the needle in a rivalry that can use some needling when he told his team that opponents visiting this state should only expect to win if they play in Tucson.
Within minutes, Hurley’s F-bomb-bleeped video had circulated through every Middlesex village and farm in Southern Arizona.
Most coaches work the locker room the same way Hurley did in last week’s video, which is a basic coaching motivational technique. But most don’t let it become the Pac-12 leader in retweets.
If only Hurley will stay at ASU long enough to produce a Top 25 team and make the annual UA-ASU games the most coveted ticket of the year.
Arizona has declared basketball war on opposing coaches before, but almost exclusively in the WAC days when UTEP’s Don Haskins and New Mexico’s Norm Ellenberger were widely feared and respected — and weren’t too polite to cuss up a sideline storm.
Since Arizona joined the Pac-10 in 1978, only UCLA’s Walt Hazzard has drawn much ire at McKale. Hazzard, in fact, was fired after a 1988 Pac-10 tournament game at McKale when Tucsonans adopted underdog Washington State as their team, booing Hazzard so loudly that he was fired two days later.
UCLA president Charles Young said a UCLA coach should not be the type of man who creates so much negativity.
The Pac-12 has paraded some unpopular players through McKale, among them UCLA’s Trevor Wilson and Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez.
But until Hurley showed up at ASU, no one could touch the Bruins’ MacLean and Reggie Miller.
Villains times two.
The expressive Miller fouled out of a February 1986 game at McKale and, as he left the court in an 85-60 loss, rubbed his fingers in front of referee Booker Turner, as if to suggest the refs had been paid off.
A month later, before Arizona would clinch its first-ever Pac-10 championship, at Pauley Pavilion, Miller told the Star he guaranteed “payback.” Arizona won 88-76 and cut down the nets on Miller’s watch.
Miller got his revenge a year later, scoring 30 points in a sweep of the Wildcats, dancing on the McKale court in a hail of boos.
“I call it payback on my checklist,” he said. “I know this loss hurt ‘em bad.”
Then came MacLean, who scored 184 points against Arizona, the most of any player in league history (including 38 when the Bruins broke Arizona’s 71-game McKale winning streak in 1992).
Sports Illustrated described MacLean as “a yowling potentate” and an “unrepentant jerk.”
He’s not that way now. At 46, MacLean is the father of three and the Pac-12 Network’s most valued basketball analyst, with an insightful, tell-it-like-it-is approach.
But from ’88 to ’92, he was the most provocative player in the Pac-10.
In a classic double-overtime game at Pauley Pavilion in 1991, MacLean threw the basketball into the crotch of UA star Brian Williams.
“Cheap shot!” yelled ESPN’s Dick Vitale.
MacLean, who earned a technical foul and whose team lost 105-94, said: “It was a weak call. Arizona was doing and saying the same things.”
He once knocked Jud Buechler to the ground at McKale, offered a hand to help him from the court, then withdrew his hand just as Buechler reached for it.
“He’s bush,” said MacLean, upset with Buechler and Arizona’s box-and-1 defensive tactics.
After UCLA broke Arizona’s 71-game streak, MacLean did a quick victory dance and sprinted to the locker room.
“I don’t want to rub it in their faces,” he said.
“But I didn’t want them to throw anything at me, either. That’s why I ran off the court.”
Bless you, Bobby Hurley. We’ve been waiting all these years.