Comparing Jim Ferry to Dan Hurley

By Steve DiMiceli

There are a number of parallels between why Rhode Island and Duquesne fired their previous coaches. For the Rams, Jim Baron was dismissed in large part because he reached a plateau at the NIT caused by February meltdowns and lost key players due to rules violations. At Duquesne, Ron Everhart was fired in large part because he reached a plateau at the CBI caused by February meltdowns and lost keys players due to transfer. Both school's replacements coached top programs in the NEC this past season. Dan Hurley went from Wagner to Rhode Island and of course, Jim Ferry landed at Duquesne. The brand of the Hurley name has created major hype around the Rams program, while the largely unknown Ferry has created little buzz in Pittsburgh.

Let me begin by saying my purpose for writing today isn't to slam Hurley. I like him a lot and I'll be completely honest, I was jealous of hire when it happened. Here is a guy who's dad is the high school basketball version of Pat Riley, and he brings his brother Bobby on staff who was an iconic point guard at an iconic university during what might be considered their golden age. The first thought that crosses your mind is "how can you compete with this?" The Hurley name is about as big as it gets inside the industry. Still, here is a guy entering his third year of college coaching and already he's in the A-10 . Compare that to Jim Ferry whose been in the college game at some level for fifteen and D-1 for ten. Hurley looks like the rising star and the splash hire, but there are still some questions about him.

It's widely discussed how Hurley took a 5 win team and turned it into a 25 game winner in two years. While this may be true, Hurley did not start with a 5 win program. In the years leading up to the Hurley hire, Wagner was a middle of the road but inconsistent NEC program, but generally a winner. They just happened to be way down the year before Hurley arrived. Three years before he arrived, Wagner had a 23 win season good for second in the league and followed it up with a 16-14 season. On the other hand, Long Island was a down in the dumps program. Outside of some success from 96-98 that included an NCAA and NIT berth where Long Island won 21 games twice, the program topped out at 12 in the 10 years prior to Ferry accepting the position. The program Ferry took over was in much worse shape than the one Hurley took over without even mentioning the home court in the converted movie theater. Sure, it took him a long time to turn it around, but the success was all his for sure. Hurley had several holdovers from the previous administration including his 3rd leading scorer in the rotation this past season. Not suggesting Hurley will need a major rebuild in Rhode Island, I'm just suggesting his skills as a builder might be somewhat exaggerated.

In the NEC this past season, I thought there were 3 coaches worth a damn, Jim Ferry, Dan Hurley and sixteen year old Robert Morris coach Andy Toole. In the head to heads, Ferry has fared quite well over the past two seasons going 7-2 (3-1 this past season) against the other top coaches. Toole went 5-5 (2-2) while Hurley went 2-7 (1-3). Sure, Hurley clearly had the worst squad of the three coming into the 2010-2011 season, but Toole and Ferry accounted for half of Wagner's losses this past season. Ferry is a clean 4 - 0 against Hurley and the former Long Island coach also posted a 5-4 record against current St Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt. Admittedly, he struggled with Mike Rice, Jr going 1-3. In situations against tough coaches, Ferry seems to rise while Hurley struggled.

As I eluded to, I like both the Rhode Island and the Duquesne coaching moves. However, I don't see it as the huge win for the Rams that the hype machine would suggest. Still the Hurley brand helps and it's paid dividends in early recruiting. However, talent has never been the problem at Rhode Island, game coaching when it counts has. Hurley's still almost entirely unproven in the college ranks, and the efforts it took to rebuild Wagner are exaggerated.   What I like about Hurley is that he's stepping into the same type of situation at URI as he did at Wagner with another middle of the road program for its conference not that far removed from some level of success. Hurley never had to rebuild the image of a program and he won't at URI.  Ferry, on the other hand, advanced the perception of Long Island and he'll need to do  more of that at Duquesne.  It will be interesting to see how these programs progress, but Hurley will need to improve his record against good coaches, because every coach in the A-10 would be a top coach in the NEC. Like at Wagner, I think Hurley will make an immediate impact, but in the long run, I think Ferry could have a greater positive effect at Duquesne.