Clock runs out on hoops power St. Anthony's in New Jersey
Posted April 6
Jersey City, N.J. — A national basketball powerhouse in New Jersey is closing.
St. Anthony's, the school that bears the stamp of Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, will shut its doors in June. Hurley and other school officials announced the expected decision Wednesday after meeting with the Archdiocese of Newark and then informing staff and faculty.
The Roman Catholic school has been fighting declining attendance and rising costs for decades.
"Those of us who have been involved in St. Anthony's — members of the board, the staff and faculty, parents, alumni and other supporters — had weathered challenges to continue to remain open in years past," Hurley said in making the announcement. But even with the financial and moral support that we have received, it has become more and more clear that maintaining the school was becoming too difficult."
St. Anthony's has won 28 New Jersey state titles and four national championships. The school has sent more than 150 players to Division I basketball programs. Among them are Hurley's two sons, who now coach Rhode Island and Arizona State.
The school has enrollment of about 160 students. It has a 100 percent college acceptance for seniors the past two decades.
The decision didn't come as a surprise. Hurley admitted that he knew it was coming, barring a major donation.
Still it hurt. There were times the 69-year-old's voice trembled and his eyes teared during the news conference.
"Rarely does a school the size of St. Anthony's merit this, but it should because basketball made you find out something about the place that the families of the non-athletes know," Hurley said. "That they've gotten a good education."
Hurley stressed that education only cost $6,100, and that the school maintained a low tuition for years, allowing parents to save money for college. And it was all the students, not just the athletes who were the beneficiaries.
"Those things speak for themselves," Hurley said. "That's what we hang our hat with, what we've done. Is it extremely sad? Yes. It's brutal. It's absolutely brutal."
Hurley said the archdiocese recently gave the school that looks out onto the wealth of the New York City financial district, nine conditions that it had to meet to stay open.
Six conditions were met, a seventh was possible, Hurley said, but there was no chance they school would get 200 students for next year or meet the requirement to have $500,000 in its bank account by September.
Hurley said the school owes the archdiocese roughly $1.2 million, and it would have to raise a $1 million to meet all it bills.
Rosemary McFadden, a member of the board of trustees, said the closure will cost 27 members of the staff and faculty their jobs.
Hurley said the school would work with the underclass students to find alternate Catholic school choices, which might be hard because many of the low-income parents in New Jersey's second largest city, and easily it's most diverse, just don't have the money.
Nearby St. Peter's Prep has a $17,000 tuition.
According to St. Anthony's website, the enrollment is 70 percent male and 70 percent African-American. Hispanic-Latino students make up 15 percent, while 9 percent are multiracial, and Caucasian and Asian each 3 percent.
Senior point guard R.J. Cole said the past few weeks have been tough on the students. He knows he is going to Howard next year. Others are now in limbo.
"Everybody comes to St. Anthony's for a home," Cole said. "This is a great academic school and a great basketball school."
Mayor Steve Fulop called the closure devastating, and a tremendous loss for the Jersey City community.
"Saint Anthony's had a reputation that went far beyond the national recognition as the best boys high school basketball team in the country - it was known as a place that provided students from an urban area a strong academic and moral education and the skills to become future leaders," he said. We are all saddened by this news."
Jerry Walker, who played on the 1989 team that included Hurley's son and was considered one of the school's best, said he didn't know where he would have been without St. Anthony's. He grew up in one of Jersey's City's toughest sections and went on to get a college degree and build an after-school program here that keeps kids off the streets.
Walker came over to the school just before the announcement and stood and listened to Hurley addressed the media, adding that the closing of the school takes away one of the greatest coaches of all time.
"I think it's a big blow," Walker said. "He sets the tone for basketball and athletes, all the coaches want to be like him."