It will be the closest thing to a family reunion when longtime pals Mike Grasso and Rich Hurley bring their basketball teams together for a Suburban Council boys’ basketball game Tuesday at Niskayuna.
Grasso is in his second season with Niskayuna, and Hurley is back coaching at Troy after taking a three-year hiatus to recharge and focus on his family.
Their tie goes back to their days at Bishop Maginn, where they both excelled in athletics, and where later on Grasso for four seasons assisted Hurley with the basketball team. Grasso also worked with baseball and football teams at Bishop Maginn, where his late father Joe Grasso was a longtime administrator and among Section II’s most successful grid coaches.
That tie remains strong today, and includes their 12-year-old sons — born just weeks apart — who play AAU basketball and travel baseball together.
“We’ve been friends for a long time. We played Nerf hoop in the basement. I dated his sister. He’s almost like a brother to me,” Hurley said of Mike Grasso. “His father was my boss at Bishop Maginn and one of my mentors. There’s a relationship with our families.”
So don’t expect a civil war Tuesday night.
“I’m looking forward to competing against him,” Hurley said Friday night after his Flying Horses opened their season with a win over Schenectady. “We’ll be on the phone probably six times before the game.”
“It’s going to be really cool,” Grasso said. “I’m excited about it. When he got the job it’s something we talked about.”
Some things didn’t need to be said.
“I know you have to be on your ‘A’ game if you’re going up against a Rich Hurley-coached team,” Grasso said, before adding. “He’ll have them playing at a high level of intensity. We pride ourselves on that, too, so it should be a good game.”
Grasso will be looking to guide Niskayuna to its third win after his team opened with victories against Columbia and Averill Park over the weekend. He’s got nine guys back from last season’s edition that won 15 times and reached the Section II tournament semifinals for the first time since 2001.
“We knew that program was going to go in the right direction. I’ve seen him grow as a coach,” Hurley said. “In one year he showed what can be done if you have a guy with Mike’s passion and coaching ability.”
Grasso readily acknowledges the help he’s received in his coaching progression, and he has continued to build on it.
“Aside from being a great friend, as a coach and mentor, he’s shown me an awful lot,” Grasso said of his elder buddy by seven years. “There’s the organizational standpoint. Attention to detail. Breaking down opponents individually and collectively. He is so good at all of that.”
Hurley guided Troy to five Section II title games in his six seasons there through 2017, with Grasso sometimes working out players with him on a volunteer basis. Hurley’s 2013 Troy team won a Section II title and his 2016 edition won another as a stepping stone to the state final. His Bishop Maginn teams enjoyed grand success, as well, in a five-season stint that ran through 2009 and was punctuated by a state title-game appearance in 2007 and a state title-game victory in 2008.
Before taking over the Niskayuna basketball team, Grasso’s previous school coaching gig was as the Troy football team’s offensive coordinator from 2015-18, and with his calls he helped the Flying Horses secure state titles in 2016 and 2017.
“When we’re in, we’re all in,” Grasso said of Hurley and himself. “That’s the type of personalities we have.”