Kevin Shaw admitted that he is a huge basketball fan.
“Growing up in Chicago, I used to watch the Chicago Bulls games and Michael Jordan all the time,” said Shaw, a respected filmmaker and director. “I went to Michigan State and was obviously a big fan of the Spartans and [head coach] Tom Izzo. I grew up in the golden era of college basketball, watching Duke and Bobby Hurley.”
Shaw said that he was obviously familiar with the Duke All-American point guard and Jersey City native, but that he didn’t know much about Hurley’s background, especially his legendary father, St. Anthony basketball coach Bob Hurley.
“I knew that Bobby’s father had coached him and that the team was pretty good,” Shaw said. “But I really didn’t know much about Bob Hurley.”
Shaw was introduced to Hurley’s story through a producer named Jay Sharman, who is also the chief executive officer of TeamWorks Media.
Sharman had produced a documentary about the 1999-2000 DePaul University basketball team, a team that featured former St. Anthony All-State point guard Rashon Burno.
In doing the documentary on that DePaul team, Sharman traveled to Jersey City to find out a little more about Burno’s background. Burno then introduced Sharman to his high school coach Hurley and Sharman was just blown away by the story.
Burno took Sharman on a tour of his basketball background in Jersey City as part of that initial documentary. Sharman was so impressed by Hurley and the humble background surrounding the Friars that in 2006, Sharman decided that he wanted to do a full-length documentary on St. Anthony basketball as well.
Sharman met with Hurley and told him of the idea of the documentary. The legendary coach thought that the exposure might be a good way to raise money for the school, so he agreed to have it done.
Sharman then hired Shaw to direct the documentary, entitled “The Street Stops Here”. The filmmaker told Hurley that to do the project correctly, they would need access to anything and everything, including practices, games, the players’ homes, you name it.
It didn’t take long for Shaw to become fascinated with the project.
“It’s an amazing fact that St. Anthony has won so many accolades and championships with Bob Hurley as a coach and they didn’t have the top-notch facilities,” Shaw said. “Then, you have all the odds that are against the players and they manage to persevere. I thought it was a tremendously inspirational story. Here’s a coach who sticks to his beliefs and his principles and does tremendous things.”
Hurley informed Shaw that other filmmakers had approached him in the past about doing something about his program and that he was skeptical about it.
“But he agreed, because he thought the timing could be right,” Shaw said.
It just happened to be that at the time, the Friars had a tremendous team returning with six NCAA Division I products on the same squad.
As it turned out, the 2007-08 Friars went 32-0 and won the national championship, so the timing was definitely right.
“We were totally fortunate to do this that year, with all the tremendous stories that culminate in a perfect season,” Shaw said. “It was a very special group of kids, some of whom came from broken homes, different backgrounds.”
And that’s exactly what Shaw captured. He filmed the Paterson home where guards Jio Fontan and Travon Woodall lived together, making that daily commute to Jersey City. He went to the Brooklyn home of A.J. Rogers and followed his journey through the subways to Jersey City.
And Shaw went to the Duncan Avenue projects, where Burno (one of the executive producers of the film) grew up years ago and where Friar All-American Mike Rosario came from – buildings in Jersey City that have since been razed.
Then, there were the practice sessions that were filmed, getting to see Hurley in action with his players, showing the kind of tough love and discipline that has guided the Friars to nearly 1,000 victories, 25 NJSIAA state titles, nine Tournament of Champions crowns and three mythical national titles.
“We filmed about 100 practices,” Shaw said. “We got to see it all first hand. We must have had about 400 hours of footage. We watched these kids’ basketball IQ grow and saw how they got prepared for the next level.”
In viewing the documentary that will air nationally on PBS Wednesday night at 10 p.m., there are some amazing clips.
One features Bob Hurley coaching Bobby with his shooting during the amazing 1989 Friar undefeated national championship season. It is truly amazing how Shaw was able to find a tape of that interview.
“It was done by CBS back then and it was a great piece,” Shaw said.
The other compelling clip came in the middle of the season, after Rosario was named to the McDonald’s All-American team, but was almost ejected for dunking and hanging on the rim twice in one game.
There was a players-only team meeting, where several players aired their grievances with Rosario. No coaches were there. But the film crew was.
“We asked if we could go in and shoot the meeting and Jio [Fontan] said that it was OK,” Shaw said. “We built a great relationship with the players over the course of the season. They had trust in us. They just let us in and didn’t mind. They said things to Mike because they knew him for so long and they knew he would take it. And he took it.”
Talk about tough love.
Needless to say, it’s a compelling hour, not just because it is about our top local basketball program or it is featuring a coach who has been so respected and revered locally for more than 35 years.
It’s a great film because it takes you into the heart of a high school basketball program that is second to none. It gives you access to a program that had never before been delved into. This reporter has been watching the fabulous Friars play since childhood and covering St. Anthony basketball for the last 25 years and never before has there been anything like it.
It didn’t hurt that this team went undefeated and won a national title. It only enhances the entire story.
“But I think it still would have been a great story if this was any other year,” Shaw said. “It’s great that we picked the 2007-08 season, but if we did it any other year, it would have been just as compelling and with similar characters.”
Shaw was asked if he liked his final product.
“I love it,” Shaw said. “I hope it’s a film that lives on and stands the test of time. I hope it reaches regular viewers, not just basketball fans. The legacy of St. Anthony basketball should live on. I think it’s been captured.”
It’s also fascinating that many of the characters have become college basketball stars, like Rosario at Rutgers, Tyshawn Taylor at Kansas and Woodall at Pitt. Fontan has decided to transfer to the University of Southern California. Their basketball legacies live on as well.
It’s a powerful film and one that has to be watched to get the full impact. Make sure to catch it Wednesday at 10 p.m. on PBS, if you can. Set the DVRs and make sure you capture this extraordinary glimpse of St. Anthony basketball.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. The DVD of “The Street Stops Here” is available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to St. Anthony High School. For further information, log on to www.thestreetstopsheremovie.com. The website also has clips of the documentary as well.