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As Arizona State hires Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill likes the fit

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As a young player at Duke, Grant Hill identified Bobby Hurley as a leader.

“I think he’s the type of guy that people would want to follow,” the former Duke forward said. “I know as a player I did.”

Ray Anderson has seen the same quality. The Arizona State vice president for university athletics hired Hurley as the Sun Devils next men’s basketball coach Thursday.

Hill and Hurley played together at Duke from 1990 to 1993, Hurley running the point and calling the plays in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s offense.

Hill said Hurley was fearlessly competitive as a teammate, but added that his mind for basketball, molded by Krzyzewski and his father, legendary St. Anthony (New Jersey) High School coach Bob Hurley Sr., may be as strong an asset for the new Tempe hire.

“By the time he was 21, all of his basketball influences were Hall of Famers,” said Hill, now a basketball analyst for Turner Sports. “His dad, his high school coach, his college coach – so in some ways I was envious of that.”

Arizona State isn’t exactly known as a basketball power, but Hill called it a “wonderful opportunity” for Hurley, noting the upside of a lower-echelon Pac-12 school.

“Having lived out there and knowing how great it is in the Valley, I could never quite figure out why it never quite happened for that program,” said Hill, who played for the Phoenix Suns from 2007 to 2012. “Bobby’s a young guy, Bobby’s a guy whose name is still somewhat relevant. People know that name and they can connect it with the program at Duke.”

Hill recognizes similarities between Hurley’s situation and Krzyzewski’s when he arrived at Duke. The Blue Devils had to compete with nationally known North Carolina while ASU will now try to build to the level of Arizona, a perennial contender.

“Knowing Coach K’s history and going to Duke and some of the challenges he had and what he had to do, it’s not always an overnight, snap-your-fingers instant change,” Hill said. “But you come in and you try to establish a culture.”

That’s precisely what Hurley intends to do.

“We are here to set a new standard, to make regular trips to the NCAA Tournament and regularly compete for conference and national titles,” he said in a statement released by the school.

The 43-year-old Hurley was 42-20 in two years in Buffalo, his only experience as a head coach. Prior to Buffalo, he coached under his brother, Dan, at Wagner and Rhode Island. His father, Bob, has coached St. Anthony’s since 1972 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2014-15, Hurley led the Bulls to their first NCAA Tournament berth after a 23-9 (12-6 MAC) regular season and a Mid-American Conference tournament title. Buffalo bowed out of March Madness in its first game, a 68-62 loss to West Virginia.

“With Bobby at the helm, we will provide the necessary resources to compete within our state, our conference and across the nation,” Anderson said in a statement. “We are intent on becoming an elite men’s basketball program.”

Hurley replaces Herb Sendek, who was 159-137 in Tempe.

Hurley may be best known for winning back-to-back NCAA championships as a point guard for Duke in 1991 and 1992. He was drafted seventh by the Sacramento Kings in 1993. He had a five-year NBA career, which was interrupted in his rookie year by life-threatening injuries suffered in a car accident.

For Hill, it all goes back to Duke when it comes to Hurley.

“Maybe I recognized it when I was 19 or maybe I’m looking back at it now and sort of recognize it,” Hill said, “but you just kind of knew that this guy was not only a great player, but one day he’ll be a great coach.”

ASU will introduce Hurley at a 10 a.m. press conference Friday in Tempe.

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