It had stayed with him the way the Elizabeth kids went out of their way to show him respect after the game, the way they showed the game itself respect with how they competed against St. Anthony. They weren't good enough to beat the Friars. They didn't have enough talent. Still, they had wanted to play that game against St. Anthony far more than his kids had wanted to play them.

"I'm afraid to even ask this, but does anyone even know the name of the Elizabeth coach?

"Huh, anyone?"

Nothing.

"Lamar, what's the coach's name at Seton Hall Prep?"

Nothing.

"Barney, what's the coach's name at Seton Hall Prep?"

Blank stare.

"Ahmad Nivins, what's the coach at Seton Hall's name?"

Another blank stare.

"Bob Farrell is the coach of Seton Hall Prep. He's coached in the McDonald's All-American game. He's won state championships. He's had Brevin Knight in the NBA. You must never read a newspaper. Part of having SAT scores that are very, very low is that you don't even read the sports page."

Hurley grabbed a chair from the showers, and sat down. This told the team everything that it feared. They weren't leaving soon. This wasn't ending, but just beginning.

"I have contempt," Hurley started again. "I have nothing but contempt for you all. You make me sick. You have no passion. You're not going to make it. You're such a sorry-ass bunch. I can say to you that the state championship is a month and a day away, and know what you can do?

Previous ESPN Book Club
Book of the Month selections
  • October: "Friday Night Lights" by H.G. Bissinger

  • November: "When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan's Last Comeback" by Michael Leahy

  • January: "Unforgivable Blackness" by Geoffrey C. Ward
  • "Go back to your miserable existence.

    "Go back to not caring.

    "Go back to being cool.

    "My frustration is this: I would just love to beat your ass. Because somebody should've beat your ass growing up. I got my ass beat a bunch of times. I came from a very good generation, and if I did something to embarrass my father, he kicked the (crap) out of me.

    "And what did I learn? Well, I learned first that I didn't like getting the (crap) kicked out of me. And the second thing I learned as I got older, never would I want to do something to embarrass my dad. Because he was a hero of mine.

    "A hero of mine.

    "I think of the families here, and they must come home and their heads must be spinning. I look around here and I want somebody to go out and accomplish something. Go out and every day get away from the crowd and be your own person. But it can't happen. Because you're a bunch of miserable adolescents. You look for somebody to tell you, 'Ah, that's OK ... You've got car keys and a steady girlfriend, but you've got no SAT scores and no grades and no (bleeping) future.

    "Now, teams are coming into our building and they want to get us. They want us here. So, go ahead, read your press clippings. But at least give the sport the respect to know who's in it."

    His rage dissolved into a long, exhausted groan. For Hurley, the complete disconnect between his players -- between a generation of kids like them and the world in which they competed -- was symptomatic of a greater disregard. He believed that for most of his players, basketball wasn't God. It was video games and cell phones and mindless television shows and it broke his heart. It killed him.

    It always got back to the fact that they just didn't love the game the way he did. Didn't respect those in it. He couldn't get over that. He would never get over that.

    How could they not spend the day as nervous as him?

    How could they not devour the morning sports page?

    How could the No. 1 team in New Jersey not know the name of Bob Farrell, the coach of the second-ranked team in the state?

    "This is such a different city now," Hurley was saying now. "I wore a letter sweater when I was a kid in Jersey City. You wore the amount of stripes for your varsity year. Like Marcus Williams would have four stripes on his sweater. That was a big deal. Now, if you've got four chains around your neck, it's a big deal. Those guys used to come in and see me in probation. I used to laugh at those guys. It's called chump change in life. You settle for one thing. You've got it now. And you spend most of your life in jail.

    "A very good friend of mine is in jail; a kid who Ben and I tried to counsel before he went away. He made a huge mistake in his adult life. I keep taking books that I want him to read so that he has something to do while he's in prison.

    "Do you all understand that there are people all over the place who made just one decision. Just one decision in life ...

    Continued...


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