In 1956, post the Melbourne Olympics, Bega High school NSW Physical Education teacher Keith Mitchell surveyed with satisfaction the flat area on the high-school grounds that the large grader had carved out. The group of youngsters in the PE class shovels and rakes in hand surveyed with interest and some confusion the events unfolding before them. One skinny twelve year asked, “Excuse me sir what exactly are we doing?’ Mitchell answered, “Well we are building a basketball court.” “Excuse me sir what is basketball?” asked the young Adrian Hurley. Mitchell replied. “It’s a beautiful game that you will love son”. He was right.
Adrian Rex Hurley was born at Bega on April 21st 1944 and basketball was definitely not part of his formative years as the game was totally unknown in that part of Australia and his passions were rugby league, cricket and any other
sport he could play. Vice Captain of the school he went on to represent his school in quite a number of sports and was on the debating team.
His basketball coaching primarily started in 1962 when as a student at Wagga Wagga Teachers College he was Captain/Coach of the College basketball team. He was awarded a Sports Honours Blue at College for all-round sport, a Blue for Basketball and represented the Riverina in Rugby Union (under 18’s) and the Wagga region in basketball.
When he was appointed to Keira Boy’s High School in Wollongong in 1963 he became heavily involved in basketball coaching and had to give-up Rugby despite playing on the first grade 1964 Illawarra Rugby premiership winning team. He coached school and Illawarra basketball teams to a number of State titles and was Assistant Coach on the NSW Under 18 Team that won the Australian Championships in 1964. Over the next fifteen years he was to coach junior and senior basketball teams to numerous State titles and Wollongong Institute of Education Men’s Team to an Australian Tertiary Championship.
While he was coaching he also concentrated more on playing basketball and played for Illawarra from 1964 to 1972 in State Championships and in the South Eastern Conference between States. He was a member of the dominating “Trotters” basketball Club which won Illawarra Championships for many years. He captained Illawarra for seven years. He played for NSW for five years with one year as Captain and played on the NSW team that won the Australian Championship in 1967. He played on the Rest of Australia team that defeated the 1968 Olympic Team prior to their departure for Mexico. Australian Coach Ken Watson named Hurley as a player who came under consideration for the 1968 Olympic Team.
Legendary Australian basketball official Bob Staunton was always keen to advise people that, “Adrian Hurley is the only person I know who represented his State as a Coach before he represented the State as a player.”
Hurley and his wife Carolyn studied on scholarships at the University of Oregon in the USA from 1972 to 1975 where he was involved with basketball programs and gained his PhD in Education. Upon returning to Wollongong he coached the Illawarra Hawks to State Championships and in the NBL in 1980. He also coached the Illawarra Women’s Team.
In 1981 Hurley was appointed as the foundation basketball coach at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra. The AIS had no format or blueprint and it was up to each sports coach to design and construct the programs as they saw fit. The model that Hurley established at the AIS endured from 1981 to 2012 and was recognised as one of the best programs of its kind in the world. The program was based on junior development for World Junior Championships and preparing players to play National League and for the senior National Teams. He coached the 1987 AIS women’s team to the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final and to win the Women’s Australian Club Championship. The majority of players on that team went on to represent Australia at the senior level. The 1987 AIS women’s team had an average age of seventeen. A member of that team and Basketball Australia Hall of Fame member Sandy Brondello comments, “Adrian Hurley was a key influence on my career from the time he first coached me at the AIS. His encouragement, belief and mentoring in the years that followed gave me the necessary confidence to achieve all of my goals”
Hurley became known as “the father of AIS basketball” and was awarded an AIS Award of Merit by Prime Minister Hawke in 1991. He established the National Intensive Training Centre Program (NTCP) for basketball for in each State and Territory in 1989. This program became the cornerstone for State and national player develoment. He also inaugurated the annual All Australian Junior Camps. Hurley also brought leading world basketball coaches to Australia each year to develop coaching across Australia. These coaches included NBA winners and college Championship winners.
He was an Australian Men’s Team selector for fifteen years from 1977 to 1992. In 1981 he was appointed as Assistant Coach to the Australian Men’s Team. Over the next four years he coached with the Australian Team on a number of long tours, in Oceania Championships and at the 1982 World Championships where the team gained fifth place, and at the 1984 Olympic Games where the team gained seventh place.
In 1985 Hurley was appointed as the Head Coach of the Australian Men’s Team. He was to hold that position until the end of 1992. Basketball in Australia was undergoing rapid change and development. Clubs were becoming more professional, the public profile was booming and the demands on coaches and players were ever increasing.
Hurley took the Men’s Team (now known as the Boomers) on a number of overseas tours and won the Oceania Championships all four times (undefeated) in his reign as Head Coach. At the 1986 World Championships the Boomers were upset in the Group games of the 24 team competition and were a disappointing equal 13th.
In 1987 the Boomers played the mighty Soviet Union in Australia in six games that ignited public interest and played to sell-out crowds across Australia. The Boomers lost all six games to the Soviets but they were learning to play against the best. Hurley knew that the only way to get Australia to the upper echelons in international basketball was to play against the best regardless of the number of defeats. Accordingly he prevailed on Basketball Australia to bring the Soviets to Australia again in the weeks before the 1988 Olympic Games. The Boomers lost another six games but they were narrowing the gap.
At the 1988 Olympic Games the Boomers moved into uncharted waters when they defeated Spain for the first time and won their Quarter Final to move into the Semi-Finals of the Olympic Games. The Boomers went on to lose their Medal games against Yugoslavia and the USA but they had achieved something that no other Australian team had done when they took fourth place at an Olympic Games.. Those Games were also the start of stellar careers for teenagers Vlahov, Bradtke and Longley who Hurley had controversially selected for the Games.
In the years to follow Hurley led the Boomers on a number of tours to Europe and the USA and to fifth place at the 1990 Goodwill Games and to seventh place at the 1990 World Championships in Argentina.
While overseas on tours he was invited to present at numerous coaching clinics further enhancing Australia’s basketball coaching profile.
He coached the Boomers against the Kareem Jabaar All Stars in a three match series which the Boomers won. In that series the first basketball game was played at the Melbourne Rod Laver Arena and set an Australian record basketball crowd of in excess of 15,000.
Basketball Australia was undergoing substantial changes and the Boomers preparation was being affected by the inability to get national teams to tour to Australia.
In 1992 Hurley led the Boomers to sixth place at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the second best result to that time. However he was frustrated by the lack of international competition for the Boomers during the year of the Games and support from Basketball Australia and the NBL who did not release the players to go overseas for international competition until the weekend before the Olympic Games and he decided not to nominate for the position of Boomers Head Coach after the 1992 Olympic Games.
Phil Smyth the Captain of the Boomers from 1981 to 1992 states, “Adrian Hurley was the best fundamentals and most innovative coach I ever had.”
Hurley resigned from the AIS and took up the position of Head Coach of the NBL Club the Perth Wildcats. He took the Wildcats to the NBL minor premiership and the Grand Final in 1993 his first year at the Club. He then coached the Wildcats to the playoffs each year from 1993 to the 1997 season and to win the NBL Championship in 1995. The 1995 Wildcats won the NBL pre-season, the NBL minor premiership and the Grand Final series. The day after the 1995 NBL Grand Final the team flew to London and gained third place in the World Club Championships which was won by the 1995 NBA Champions the Houston Rockets. That result remains the best result ever by an Australian team in that competition. Hurley retired from coaching after the 1997 NBL season. In 2013 he was named as the Head Coach of the Wildcats Thirty Year Anniversary Team.
He undertook a business career and worked for Australian Capital Equity as an executive and then moved to Newcastle, NSW to be the CEO of the Newcastle and Hunter Events Corporation.
In 2000 he was appointed by the Prime Minister to be part of a four person Task Force to recommend to the Federal Government a blueprint for Sport in Australia Beyond the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Hurley was the CEO of the 2001 Australian Masters Games which were a finalist for 2001 Australian Sports Awards Event of the Year and Hurley was one of three finalists for the 2001 Australian Sports Awards Administrator of the Year.
He continued to coach in Newcastle and coached Newcastle Youth and Senior Men’s representative teams in the State Championships for a number of years. He came out of professional basketball coaching retirement in 2004 to coach the Newcastle Pirates in their second year of operation and took them from two wins the previous year to sixteen wins and the playoffs. He was named the NBL 2004/05 Coach of the Year. He took the Club to the playoffs again in 2005/06 before the Club folded and moved to Singapore. He retired again in 2006.
Throughout his career Hurley held a number of volunteer positions and won numerous awards. He was NSW Basketball Coach of the Year in 1975, named as Coach of the 1978 Australian Men’s Club Championship All Star Team, NSW Waratah League Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003. He has been awarded the Basketball Australia Merit Award and Master Basketball Coach Accreditation. He was Acting Director of the AIS at one stage. In 2000 he received the Australian Sports Medal and was a Torch Bearer for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Hurley was a prolific writer of basketball coaching material and published and distributed hundreds of coaching articles over his fifty year basketball coaching career. He comments, “I always saw…and still do…that one of my major responsibilities was to distribute and share as much basketball knowledge around Australia as I could. The game of basketball in this country depends on good coaches. I am proud to have worked with so many dedicated and
passionate coaches during my career.
While he was in Western Australia he was President of the WA Sports Federation, a member of the Safeway Board and on a number of WA Government committees in Sport and Recreation and Education.
In 1990 Hurley was awarded the Sports Australia Eunice Gill Australian Sports Educator of the Year Award. He was a Vice-President of the World Basketball Coaches Association for twelve years (1981-1992). He was awarded the AIS Award of Merit by Prime Minister Hawke in 1991. He was President/Chair of Basketball NSW for five years (2008 to 2012) and directed a number of significant changes in that body. He served as a director for the Sydney University Flames
He was a Director of Basketball Australia for three years and chaired the BA High Performance Commission. He was the initiator, constitution writer, driving force and chairman of the organizing committees for the formation of the Basketball Australia and Basketball NSW Halls of Fame.
The Dr Adrian Hurley Basketball Coaching Scholarship Award at the AIS is named in his honour.
Hurley is a Life Member of the Illawarra Basketball Association, the Australian Basketball Coaches Association and basketball Australia. He is a member of both the NSW Basketball and Basketball Australia Halls of Fame.
He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1990 for services to sport. Olympian and NBA championship winning player Luc Longley looks back on Hurley’s coaching career. “Adrian fathered a generation of international players with his gentle persuasion, humanity and crystal clear vision of what the game should look like. He brought imagination, humour and professionalism to the game in an era when all three were badly needed. Adrian managed to find in me things I didn’t know existed, demand them of me and make me feel as though it was all my idea. That’s coaching and that’s rare.”
After more than fifty years in coaching Adrian Hurley continues to stay involved in basketball and is the Technical Coach Advisor for the Boomers from 2013 through to the 2016 Olympic Games.