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By EVAN CRAWLEY
KINGSTON â€” When it comes to University of Rhode Island menâ€™s basketball, you would be hard pressed to find two fans with a better knowledge of the program than Warren Lutzel and Dick Moore.
The two sat together to watch the introduction of new coach Dan Hurley Wednesday at Keaney Gymnasium, a place where they had watched the Rams play since the facility opened in December of 1953.
â€śI would say 40 years, 40 or 50 years, something like that,â€ť said Lutzel of how long they had been coming to games for.
â€śWhen this was first built in â€™54 I had four seats,â€ť added Moore.
Moore donned the URI jersey himself, suiting up for legendary Ramsâ€™ coach Frank Keaney from 1944-45 before heading off to fight in World War II.
As far as first impressions go, Lutzel and Moore liked what they saw from Jim Baronâ€™s replacement, even if they did appreciate the former coachâ€™s effort in his 11 years in Kingston.
â€śWe liked Baron, he did a good job. He tried hard, and he was a good man too,â€ť Moore said. â€śHeâ€™s very energetic, and I think Baron probably was too, but I think heâ€™s going to do a good job.â€ť
The feelings from most at Keaney Gym Friday was an appreciation for the effort Baron put in during his tenure at URI, but that it was time for a changing of the guard.
â€śBaron was a great coach,â€ť said Travis Juriansz, a graduate of the class of 2010. â€śHe did a lot of great things, but it just got to a point where it seemed like he was stuck.â€ť
In his time at URI Juriansz volunteered as a student manager with the menâ€™s basketball team and right away he could see the difference from the two coaches.
â€śTheyâ€™re obviously two very different kinds of people. Baron is very old school, while Hurley seems a little bit more in tune with what these kids are used to, maybe a little bit younger is a good way to put it,â€ť Juriansz said.
â€śI thought he [Hurley] was well-spoken, he obviously has a clear vision of what he expects and I think he has what it takes to get those things moving pretty quickly.â€ť
One of the things that Hurley is going to have to do next season is find a way to get more fans into the Ryan Center to watch his team play.
James Haggerty, a freshman at URI from River Edge, NJ, says he went to about 10 games last season and was a little surprised to see how empty the arena was.
â€śIt was a little less than I expected, I expected a little more,â€ť Haggerty said. â€śIt was my first season going to games and I thought the crowd would be pretty jumpy, but it really wasnâ€™t. It was OK, it was mediocre at best.â€ť
Hurley may have only been hired Monday, but already Haggerty has noticed the change around campus.
â€śI think the excitement around campus is going to be great,â€ť Haggerty said. â€śI was actually eating lunch in the cafeteria today and everyone was talking about it. Everyone knows that we hired a great coach, and thatâ€™s basically whatâ€™s going on around campus.â€ť
Whether or not fans will pack the Ryan Center next fall still remains to be seen, but someone like Moore - who has seen coaches come and go in Kingston for over half a century - is well aware of the secret to fan attendance.
â€śYou have to win,â€ť Moore said. â€śIf you donâ€™t win, you donâ€™t get the people there.â€ť
Winning will undoubtedly bring more fans, but in order to succeed in college basketball you have to recruit quality players.
Having a rĂ©sumĂ© like URIâ€™s new coach wonâ€™t hurt on the recruiting trail, and neither will having the last name Hurley.
â€śTo win you need recruiting, and I think a coach coming from New York and having resources down there with the kids in New Jersey and the inner city of New York means a lot,â€ť Lutzel said.
â€śThe family has a great basketball tradition, and it was great to see Bobby [Hurley] here, who I had seen many years ago playing basketball for Duke. I think the tradition means a lot, and I enjoyed his talk.â€ť
Who knows if Dan Hurley can turn the menâ€™s basketball program around, but so far, Ram fans young and old seem to think the URI brass made the right choice.