Not a lot of people liked him, obviously, so that’s how we feel about ourselves, but we trust him and he gets it done for us. —Arizona State forward Mickey Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — On the sidelines of the Huntsman Center, a 6-foot-2, 46-year-old was spotted jumping up and down in reaction to calls and specific plays like a maniac.
Loud boos blasted through the arena from fans every time that Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley’s face was plastered on the video board Sunday night.
To Hurley, it’s normal.
That reaction comes quite often.
“I kind of tune out the noise,” Hurley said. “I’ve got a lot of other things to worry about.”
As a two-time national champion, featured among the Mount Rushmore of hated Duke players, the former floor general used the hostile feedback as fuel to the fire.
He helped No. 4 ASU grind out a tough 80-77 road win against Utah to snap a two-game losing streak. And he did it while wearing his golden 1992 national championship ring.
The victory marked the Sun Devils’ first win against a Pac-12 opponent this season.
“You see him, though? He was over there jumping around,” said Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II, who posted 22 points and six rebounds. “I'll be like ‘he’s got to chill out sometimes,’ but we all feed off that, though, and he knows that.
“He knows what he’s doing, so I just let him do what he do.”
Hurley’s fire and passion in his third season as ASU’s head coach has created an us-against-the-world mentality in the locker room. His four seasons at Duke from 1989-93 under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski is where he first began ruffling feathers as a ferocious and borderline cocky point guard who got the job done.
ASU players hadn't been born yet during his Duke years when he pestered opponents in his No. 11 uniform, but they are well aware of his reputation.
“We trust him and he trusts us 100 percent,” said ASU forward Mickey Mitchell, whose go-ahead free throws in the last 21 seconds helped ice the game. “We saw the way he played and was really aggressive.
“Not a lot of people liked him, obviously, so that’s how we feel about ourselves, but we trust him and he gets it done for us.”
Mitchell describes Hurley as a great motivator who uses epic pregame speeches to get guys going. He knows what buttons to push, just like he did on the court as a player.
“They’ll make you run through walls on any given day, any team you play, he’ll make you do whatever,” Mitchell said of Hurley’s pregame speeches.
As an ACC school, none of Hurley’s Duke teams ever played against the University of Utah, but the Blue Devils did defeat Brigham Young his senior season, 89-66, on Dec. 23, 1992.
Jazz assistant Antonio Lang was one of Hurley’s college teammates, and they remain close buddies as part of the close-knit Duke basketball fraternity. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, another former Blue Devil, also hosted Hurley on his recruiting trip, so he respects both guys and their positions in Salt Lake City.
“I love Tony. Tony’s my guy,” Hurley said of Lang. “If I dropped it to him, Tony was going to flush it, but (the Utah Jazz) have used our practice facility. I’ve gotten to see Tony.
“I’m happy for those guys and always rooting for them.”
Hate him or love him, Hurley continues to build ASU into a respectable Pac-12 contender. His energy and passion for the game doesn’t always make him a fan favorite in opposing gyms, but maybe he likes it that way.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Hurley said.