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By EVAN CRAWLEY
KINGSTON â When it comes to University of Rhode Island menâs 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.
âI would say 40 years, 40 or 50 years, something like that,â said Lutzel of how long they had been coming to games for.
âWhen this was first built in â54 I had four seats,â 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 Baronâs replacement, even if they did appreciate the former coachâs effort in his 11 years in Kingston.
âWe liked Baron, he did a good job. He tried hard, and he was a good man too,â Moore said. âHeâs very energetic, and I think Baron probably was too, but I think heâs going to do a good job.â
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.
âBaron was a great coach,â said Travis Juriansz, a graduate of the class of 2010. âHe did a lot of great things, but it just got to a point where it seemed like he was stuck.â
In his time at URI Juriansz volunteered as a student manager with the menâs basketball team and right away he could see the difference from the two coaches.
âTheyâre 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 Juriansz said.
âI 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
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.
âIt was a little less than I expected, I expected a little more,â Haggerty said. âIt was my first season going to games and I thought the crowd would be pretty jumpy, but it really wasnât. It was OK, it was mediocre at best.â
Hurley may have only been hired Monday, but already Haggerty has noticed the change around campus.
âI think the excitement around campus is going to be great,â Haggerty said. âI was actually eating lunch in the cafeteria today and everyone was talking about it. Everyone knows that we hired a great coach, and thatâs basically whatâs going on around campus.â
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.
âYou have to win,â Moore said. âIf you donât win, you donât get the people there.â
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 URIâs new coach wonât hurt on the recruiting trail, and neither will having the last name Hurley.
âTo 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 Lutzel said.
âThe 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
Who knows if Dan Hurley can turn the menâs basketball program around, but so far, Ram fans young and old seem to think the URI brass made the right choice.