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ASU Basketball: Hurley brings pedigree, passion to Sun Devils

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Championship experience and player-friendly coaching style among reasons Bobby Hurley was made Arizona State's head basketball coach.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

For historians of college basketball, the Duke teams of the early 90's that knocked off an undefeated UNLV squad, broke the hearts of Kentucky and ended the Fab Five's quest for history stands out among the most memorable teams the game has seen.

The Blue Devils' best NBA prospect was Grant Hill and Christian Laettner was their notorious superstar, but without the all-time NCAA assists leader running the show, Mike Krzyzewski may have never earned the "Coach K" moniker that accompanies his five national titles.

Bobby Hurley's ability to both co-exist with the ego of his teammate Laettner while masterfully operating the Duke offense was impressive enough on its own. Add in the three Final Four trips, two national titles and 1076 assists that Hurley racked up in his time in Durham and he's among the greatest college basketball players ever.

It's that pedigree as a player and the success he had in his short time as Buffalo's head coach that landed Hurley the job as ASU's newest leader.

"We wanted an unwavering dedication to provide high energy to every task necessary to bring ASU men's basketball to the elite level. And we believe very, very strongly and very confidently that we have accomplished that mission," ASU athletic director Ray Anderson said.

While Coach K and Duke were in the midst of another national title run, Anderson was patient with his search and many though the program had zeroed in on Duke assistant Jeff Capel. But it was another former Blue Devil that Anderson ended up offering the position to in Hurley.

Known for his toughness and aggressiveness in college, Hurley insisted that his coaching style will emphasize pace and discipline.

"it's a very aggressive style man defense. I want to put pressure on our opponent but do it in a disciplined way. I'm not the type of coach that typically runs around and traps and then gives up easy baskets. I want defensively our guys to lock down, to force difficult shots, to create some turnovers because teams are just tired of dealing with us at that end of the floor.

"On the flipside, I give my players freedom," Hurley said. "We spend a ton of time on skill development and developing guys' games, and I want to put guys in great positions to make plays. (In 2014-15 at Buffalo) we were in the Top 25 in pace of play. It's a style that our players enjoy playing."

Creating an elite basketball culture at a school that traditionally favors football is Hurley's toughest task, as convincing top recruits from out of state to come to Tempe to play for the school's second-most popular sport isn't an easy pitch to make. Schools like Kansas, Duke and North Carolina all are examples of schools that boast top basketball programs with mediocre football programs, and their ability to attract the best young talent is helped by the program's culture of being the sport at that school.

Bringing the ASU basketball team up to the level that Todd Graham has brought the football team is Hurley's first goal, and bringing in the nation's best recruits is a pivotal step.

"I think that I have a national name and that I have a name that people recognize in my career as a player in college athletics, and winning championships opens the doors for me," Hurley said. "I think my dad being a legendary high school coach that people know; I'd be able to pick up the phone and build and develop relationships with all the people I need to.

"When I took over in Buffalo, people had similar questions about how was I going to recruit the Midwest and be successful in a conference that was based in the Midwest with a lot of East Coast ties. We worked at it. I hired a great staff that helped recruit the major markets in our conference, and because of the job that we did, basically with all Midwest players, we were able to win our league."

Hurley announced that he is going to be retaining assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Johnson on the staff headed forward.

As is every new coach who comes to coach at ASU, Hurley was asked about his approach towards the ASU-Arizona rivalry. And with the same enthusiasm he answered with to questions on how he's going to recruit the West or fill his dad's enormous coaching shoes, Hurley showed that he's ready for the challenge.

"I've been in a few of those myself," Hurley jested in regards to the heated Duke-North Carolina rivalry he played in so many memorable games against. "I live for those kinds of games, and that's as a competitor and I think I'm a top competitor and those are the games that I want to play in and compete in. It's going to be a lot of fun."