Tough schedules, big rallies: How Bobby Hurley's Arizona State coaching record led to extension

Michelle Gardner
Arizona Republic

The Arizona State administration didn't waste any time making sure Bobby Hurley would remain in Tempe as head of the men's basketball program.

Four days after the Sun Devils' season ended with a 72-70 first round loss to No. 6 TCU in the NCAA tournament, the school announced a two-year extension that keeps Hurley in the fold through 2026.

The move was well-timed. With the season ending, Hurley and his staff will be focusing on recruiting and perusing the transfer portal for new additions. Prospects want to know who their coach is going to be and adding newcomers was going to be tougher if the Sun Devils didn't have any assurance about the coaching situation.

There had been speculation about Hurley's future at ASU, so wrapping him up now also is assurance for current players, many of whom have decisions to make. Four seniors have the option of departing or returning to use their extra year of eligibility, so having Hurley in place gives them the information they need to make the best decision for their future.

Let's take a closer look at Hurley's tenure:

Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley during the first half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Ball Arena in Denver on March 17, 2023.

On the court

The Sun Devils finished this season 23-13, marking the fourth 20-win season in Hurley's eight seasons at ASU. The 23 wins equal his previous high recorded by the 2018-2019 team. This was the team's third postseason appearance in his tenure, although there would have been a fourth had the 2020 NCAA Tournament not been canceled due to COVID.

Four seasons after Hurley's arrival, ASU removed itself from a dubious list: The Sun Devils had the fifth-longest active streak of an NCAA Tournament back-to-back drought among Power Six teams. The team had not made March Madness in back-to-back years since 1980-81. ASU was the only Pac-12 school to make the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019.

Hurley boasts a record of 141-113 (.555), which is a better winning percentage than the nine-year mark of his predecessor Herb Sendek (159-137, .537). It is also the best mark since the .599 of Ned Wulk (406-272 from 1957 to 1982).

Hurley's three postseason appearances are second in school history to only Wulk while his win total ranks third in school history behind Wulk and Sendek, both of whom had longer tenures.

Rebuilding after COVID

The success ASU had this season was more rewarding given the struggles of the previous two years. ASU was just 11-14 in 2020-2021 with multiple stoppages due to COVID and injuries. There were also a handful of games in which the Sun Devils had just seven scholarship players available.

Then, last season Hurley had considerable turnover with Kimani Lawrence and Jalen Graham the only players returning who had significant playing experience, since Marcus Bagley was injured yet again. It took a while for the team to gel and it finally did so, winning the last seven games of the regular season. That gave some hope going into the conference tournament but the Sun Devils blew a late lead in their first-round game against Stanford and were sent home.

Upgrading the schedule

Hurley has sought out good competition for his team, even if that means hitting the road. It notched its best two non-conference wins in school history (vs. No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 22, 2018, and at No. 2 Kansas on Dec. 10, 2017) and defeated two eventual 2018 No. 1 seeds in a span of a few weeks (Kansas and Xavier).

This season, ASU played six of 11 non-conference games away or at neutral sites. To put that in perspective UCLA and Arizona, the top two teams in the Pac-12 this season, each played just four non-conference games away from their home arenas.

Most notable this season for the Sun Devils was a 73-71 win over Creighton, which has advanced to this year's Sweeet 16, as well as an 87-62 win over then No. 20 Michigan in the championships game of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. That marked the school's ninth win over a ranked team in Hurley's tenure.

Rally magic

The Sun Devils have 38 games under Hurley in which they have rallied from a halftime deficit to win.

The most notable this season came in the Pac-12 opener on the road at Colorado where ASU trailed 38-23, eventually winning 60-59 on a 3-pointer by Desmond Cambridge Jr., at the buzzer.

There were six such comebacks in the 2018-2019 season, with the biggest deficit ASU faced coming against Georgia, when the Sun Devils prevailed 76-74 after trailing 47-33. There were seven rallies the previous season.

Recruiting hits and misses

Hurley landed the best recruiting class in school history when he secured Bagley and Josh Christopher, both top 30 prospects nationally. Both were assumed to be one-and-dones and indeed that was the case for Christopher, who was selected in the first round (24th pick overall) by the Houston Rockets in 2021.

However, Bagley has not had that success, as his first two seasons were plagued by injuries. This season ended with a suspension and his decision to leave the team.

Another prominent player out of the Hurley tenure is Luguentz Dort (2019), originally a four-star prospect out of Canada. Dort played for ASU just one season before declaring for the draft. He signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder as an undrafted free agent but is now a starter for that NBA franchise.

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