In just two seasons, Danny Hurley transformed Wagner from an also-ran Northeast Conference program to an NCAA tournament contender. But as impressive as that was, it was still short of Hurley’s plan.
That was to be an NCAA tournament team.
A 71-64 loss to Robert Morris in the NEC tournament semifinals ended the Seahawks season two wins short of the goal. A 25-6 season just two years after a 5-26 mark (pre-Hurley), is still a fine accomplishment. But it wasn’t much consolation to Hurley.
“To come up short from a dream — that’s what we were chasing, a dream,” Hurley told Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger. “We were chasing a one-week, three-win dream here. There’s disappointment because we’ve had such an unbelievable run.”
Hurley, who played on three NCAA tournament teams while at Seton Hall, knows what the Big Dance is like. So does his brother, Bobby, his assistant coach. This wasn’t about them so much as it was about the players.
This was the turnaround team, the one he wanted to guide to the NCAA Tournament as a former high school coach, showing everyone that was possible.
“I played in the tournament. Bobby played in the tournament,” Hurley said. “I wish we could have delivered for our senior players the experience of playing in that tournament. When we looked them in the eyes two years ago and tell them, ‘We have a chance to get there,’ I wish we just could’ve finished.”
Next year might be the year Wagner makes its second-ever NCAA tourney appearance (‘03 is it) with a roster that only loses two seniors. That might help ease this season’s finish a bit. Maybe.
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