by Franklyn Calle
From September 2007 through April 2008, the St. Anthony boys’ basketball team was followed by a camera crew capturing over 400 hours of video footage and following the lives of legendary head coach Bob Hurley and his players. The final product is one of the best basketball documentaries in recent memory. And on Wednesday, March 31st, you’ll be able to witness one of the greatest basketball programs in the nation overcome all sorts of obstacles, from financial to social ones, and enact what every high school basketball program can only dream of — a national championship, when The Street Stops Here premieres on PBS at 10:00 PM (ET). (Check local listings)
Hurley is among the best in the business. He has over 950 career wins and has sent over 150 players to college on scholarships. Other outstanding numbers are his: 23 State Parochial Championships, 7 McDonald’s All-American, 5 NBA first-round picks, 10 Tournament of Champions titles, 3 USA Today National Championships, 3 National Coach of the Year, 2 nominations into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and even a one-time National Probation Officer of the Year in 1989. Only two players in his 36 years of coaching have not gone on to attend college after graduation.
But the film shows how Hurley’s impact in the game goes way beyond his numbers. The Street Stops Here demonstrates the impact the legendary coach has on his players’ lives. Unfortunately for many of his student-atheltes basketball is the only thing keeping them away from falling victims to the streets and their life-destroying habits. Hurley (right) takes it upon himself to do everything in his power to get his players out of their rough neighborhoods and into college. He admits of probably being the toughest person his players know but it is through tough-love and discipline the only way coach knows how get his message across. “My job is to get them into college and not into the NBA,” says Hurley. It is very evident that Hurley’s motive doesn’t have anything to do with money. The retired probation officer has a salary of $6,500 as head coach and has made it very clear of having no intentions whatsoever of taking any sort of position at the collegiate level as he has turned down many offers throughout the years. “This is where the kids need me at,” says the coach.
The motion picture doesn’t just display Hurley’s side of the court. This film chronicles the lives of some of the St. Anthony players as they attempt to cope with poverty, violence, drugs and the many other distractions surrounding them. In particular, it hubs Rutgers’ Mike Rosario, Pittsburgh’s Travon Woodall, Southern California’s Jio Fontan, Kansas‘ Tyshawn Taylor and Villanova’s Dominic Cheek.
Rosario (below, right), who grew up in what’s probably the worst housing projects in Jersey City — the Harry Moore Housing Projects, finds himself with the challenge of being the team’s leading scorer and one of its senior leaders while trying to not let the pressure of the streets get in the way.
Fontan, a co-captain and starting point guard, and Woodall, also co-captain, live under the same roof. Woodall, who met Fontan at a very young age at the Boys & Girls Club, grew up in all types of struggles as his father walked out on his family and his mother has battled with drug and alcohol addiction and eventually being diagnosed with HIV. Fontan’s father, Jorge, decided to take Woodall in his home to salvage him from heading down the wrong road. Jorge learned from the mistakes he made as a youngster when he sold drugs and eventually ended up doing time in prison. He considered Woodall as part of the family and refused to let him or his own son, Jio, fall in the same trap he once did.
Aside from chronicling the basketball side of things, The Street Stops Here gives an in-depth look at the struggles the school administration goes through annually in its attempt to keep its doors open. The school must raise $1.5 million in order to stay afloat as the student’s $4,000 annual tuition isn’t nearly enough to cover the cost of their actual education as well as the school’s operating costs. To add to the drama, the deepening U.S. recession jeopardizes the year’s major fundraising event in which Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz is scheduled to headline.
You would expect a program with such a rich winning history to have pretty moderate to respectable facilities at the very least. But that is not the case at St. Anthony. Not even close. The school doesn’t even have a gym. As a matter of fact, the school doesn’t even have enough classroom in its own building. They operate three classes out of a trailer adjacent to the school. The auditorium doubles as a classroom. And the cafeteria serves as a multipurpose room as it also doubles as a classroom, weight room and locker room among others. Its tables are used to sit or lay down on when working out.
For 28 years, the basketball program practiced at a Bingo Hall called “The white eagle.” They now rent court time at a local recreational center nearby the school.
But what the school may lack in facilities and funds, they more than make up for in its spirit and mission.
Going into the 2007-08 season, the senior class had extra pressure on their shoulders as they needed to win the state championship in order to prevent ending their high school careers without a single state title under their belts. But standing in their way was national powerhouse and New Jersey rival — St. Patrick’s. The Celtics had won the state title the previous two years and was now looking to knock off Rosario and company in the semifinals in an attempt to make it three consecutive years.
The Street Stops Here, whose title originates from a sign standing right at the entrance of the school building which reads “Welcome to St. Anthony High School. You are entering a special and safe place…and… the street stops here,” is an inspirational and emotional documentary that takes you in a roller coaster ride around the lives of unprivileged inner-city young men and a coach determined to change the lives of his players using basketball as a tool. And who else better to teach kids about the danger of following the street life than someone who walked the streets for 30 years as a probation officer in Jersey City. “I saw guys growing up making bad decisions and I saw what happened to them. I saw guys with all types of potential,” says Hurley. “You try to make sure you keep the kids aware of the decisions they make.”
When it’s all set and done, St. Anthony survives yet another year while its players keep the winning tradition going. As for one of the most successful basketball coaches of all-time, he remains in the same place he’s been for the last 36 years and continues the saga in the identical manner with the same tough-love approach that has gotten all of his players to where they are, including his two sons — Bobby (Duke Univeristy, NCAA all-time assists leader with 1076) and Dan (Seton Hall University, currently the head coach at national powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep). So why even bother changing the game plan? “If every now and then I flip, so be it,” says Hurley. “If I didn’t these kids would be swallowed up by the streets.”
The following is the official The Street Stops Here movie trailer. For more information on the film, you can visit the documentary’s official site.