Niagara Gazette


March 26, 2013

PARRINO: Hurley elevates UB hoops

Niagara Gazette —

Members of the media covering the UB basketball program during Reggie Witherspoon's tenure knew the drill after games at Alumni Arena: settle in and get comfortable. 

After a post-game radio interview, a walk through the True Blue fan section, a meet and greet with the VIP season-ticket holders, post-game interaction with his team and meeting with his assistant coaches, Witherspoon would finally be ready for questions.

To a writer on deadline the exercise in patience became an aggravating chore.

But once Witherspoon entered the room, sporting his trademark smile, and started educating a room full of reporters on the game of basketball, the frustration seemed to melt away into almost complete and undivided attention.

After games, Witherspoon wasn't playing the role of a big shot, he was making his way through the Buffalo basketball community that he helped create at UB. People from around the city and members of the local high school basketball scene were routinely guests of Witherspoon, and his reach in the community and impact on young athletes has been well-documented.

That's what UB lost when Athletic Director Danny White fired Witherspoon on March 15: the pioneer of UB — and to a smaller extent, Buffalo — basketball.

I was shocked and disconcerted when I learned the news. I have covered UB basketball for five years and in that time developed a professional respect and admiration for Witherspoon and the way he led arguably the most successful program in UB athletics since the school re-entered Division 1 in 1999.

I thought White made a mistake.

But then something unprecedented happened. White responded on Tuesday afternoon by announcing the hiring of former Duke point guard and two-time NCAA champion Bobby Hurley as Witherspoon's replacement.

I have lived in Buffalo my entire life, followed all of the professional and college teams in the area, and can't remember a higher profile coaching hire. Hurley's success as a player was staggering, and bringing that kind of experience into the UB locker room is significant. 

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