Bob Hurley, the boys' basketball coach at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, may be the greatest thing that ever happened to that struggling institution. Without his energetic fund-raising through speaking engagements and clinics, the school would probably have ceased to exist years ago.
He is also an unapologetic bully with a foul mouth.
Without Bob Hurley, St. Anthony High would certainly not have built a consistently great basketball team characterized by exceptional discipline and extraordinary conditioning.
With him, a nurturing school must rationalize the presence of an adult who gathers his team around him and screams things like "There's five minutes left in your high school career, and you're still a baby! Why don't you grow up?" and "You fucking clowns!" and "Go back to your miserable fucking existence. Go back to not fucking caring."
Success excuses excess in lots of contexts, sports included. But Bob Hurley's success is more complicated than just winning. His generosity and his energetic work on behalf of St. Anthony have been extraordinary.
But to what extent does a young man who is bullied into a better performance retain the ability and drive to perform when he's no longer in the presence of the bully? Adrian Wojnarowski, the author of "The Miracle of St. Anthony," quotes adults in Jersey City who say they can still hear Coach Hurley's voice when they face difficult situations, and that what he taught them has served them well. But Wojnarowski also writes of players who stop attending classes as soon as the basketball season is over because nobody's there to coerce them into even a pretense of responsible behavior.
Adrian Wojnarowski had all sorts of access to Bob Hurley, his colleagues, his players, and his opponents. He took advantage of his material to present a full and complex profile of a character about whom readers will have to make up their own minds.