Policy at the Eagle dictated that after Saturday's drills, the exhausted players had to set up 63 tables and 200 chairs for the 10 o'clock bingo session that night. At 9:30 on Sunday morning, the Friars returned to fold up the furniture and continue basic training.
Given all this, games have always come as a relief, although each one has involved a road trip. That's not all bad. For example, during the past two seasons the Friars traveled to Hawaii, Florida and Arkansas for tournaments. This season, Hurley has scheduled three games in Puerto Rico. But these kids do more than just rack up frequent-flier miles. The Friars sacrifice their vacations and must keep at the books. The school rejects any suggestion that its players are spoiled. "People say our kids are pampered, going on all these trips," says athletic director Sister Mary Alan. "I don't call eating on McDonald's coupons being wined and dined."
Most of the money for travel expenses is collected by the team, which organizes a variety of fund-raisers between practices. St. Anthony also profits from its share of gate receipts; the Friars' reputation tends to attract capacity crowds.
But his team's national prominence also causes headaches for Hurley, who constantly fields questions about accepting a job in the college ranks. He has a simple reply: "I've lived in Jersey City all my life. I'm not going anywhere."
Then there's the effect of the limelight on the team. Last year, Hurley worried that St. Anthony's 11 appearances on cable television would swell the players' heads. Players are often asked for autographs after games. Last January, Sister Mary even hired an extra secretary to handle calls from the media.
This season the Friars are rebuilding after the graduation of three big-time college recruits. Bobby Jr. is at Duke, and Jerry Walker and Terry Dehere signed with Seton Hall, in nearby South Orange. But Sister Mary's phone still rings, and St. Anthony's cupboard is far from bare. To replace Bobby Jr., Hurley looked no farther than his own dinner table. Danny, a junior, will step into his brother's sneakers at point guard.
And for the first time, the Friars will have a real gym to play in. With the help of a local congressman, Hurley obtained use of a run-down basketball court in the Jersey City National Guard Armory. He then spent his free time for six weeks sanding and refinishing the playing surface. His plan is to conduct practice at the new court six days a week and use the Eagle on Sundays. He even hopes to schedule some games in the armory as early as January.
With Hurley as its leader, St. Anthony is no underdog. After all the years and all the trophies, even the coach has trouble believing his speeches. Sitting in the dim, flickering light of the Eagle recently, he could barely hold back a smile as he reiterated a favorite line. "We're just a tiny Catholic School without a home gym," he said, "so all I can tell my kids is that they're the best road team in the nation."