Bobby Hurley's tenure as ASU men's basketball coach was in question weeks ago. After starting 15-3, the team dropped nine of its last 13 games to finish the regular season 20-11.
Only a desperate half-court heave by Desmond Cambridge Jr. to beat Arizona in Tuscon kept the team's NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and a solid conference tournament run ended up being enough to get the team into March Madness.
We could say "what if" all we want about Cambridge Jr.'s game-winner or ASU's conference tournament run.
However, the fact is that ASU made the NCAA Tournament, won a game and nearly won a second. They also beat Arizona in Tucson, a feat not accomplished since 2019.
If a Sun Devil fan were told that was how the season would go before the season started, it's highly unlikely they would be doing anything more than asking for an extension of Hurley's time at ASU.
Luckily, that's exactly what happened, as Hurley's contract has been extended through the 2025-2026 men's college basketball season.
READ MORE: ASU extends basketball coach Bobby Hurley's contract through 2026
That's not to say, of course, that Hurley's 2022-2023 season was all roses. The middle-of-the-season collapse before the trip to Tucson was a horrific blemish on what was, at one point, a historically excellent season.
One could argue that barely making it into the tournament with the talent the team had was a disappointment in itself.
Yet, the heights that the team reached are much more important than the lows that Hurley saw during this past season.
Over his tenure, Hurley has taken the Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament a total of three times. In the seasons when the team didn't make the NCAA tournament, its win-loss percentage was at least close to .500 and they may have made the NCAA tournament in the 2019-2020 season if not for the tournament being canceled.
That is a track record of success. It's not excellence, perfection or close to the loftiest of standards for Sun Devil fans, but it's still success.
Importantly, Hurley isn't just a good coach; he's a good person.
Michael Randle, an ASU basketball fan, went to the ASU versus Arizona men's basketball game in Tucson, the game where Cambridge Jr. hit the half-court shot.
At the game, Randle said he was called racial slurs by a fan who was upset with the ASU gear Randle was wearing. After the game, Randle received a call.
"Coach Hurley was one of those people that called me and apologized for me having gone through that," Randle said. "I don't care about what other people say about Coach Hurley, I love the man as a human being."
Hurley is also loved by his players. After the team's NCAA Tournament loss to TCU, Cambridge Jr. tweeted out his feelings and showed his support for Hurley, tweeting "#TeamBobbyHurley."
Unfortunately, Hurley's team next season is going to look much different.
At the least, Cambridge Jr. and Luther Muhammad will not be returning to the team, as both have exhausted their playing eligibility. Devan Cambridge, Warren Washington and Alonzo Gaffney are seniors but still have remaining eligibility. Those players were the heart of this Sun Devil team.
That doesn't mean Hurley won't have talent to work with. Even if those players leave, guys such as Frankie Collins, Jamiya Neal, Austin Nunez and DJ Horne hold promise.
Slight regression next season should be expected, but ASU fans should remember this past season as a sign of how things can be for ASU men's basketball when key players have time and experience.
Hurley has proven himself to be able to succeed, and now he has time to take the squad to the next level.
Whether or not letting Hurley go after his new extension would be a good decision remains to be seen, but Sun Devil fans need to remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
For now, they should applaud the 2022-2023 team and its accomplishments, and then lend support to a team that could be on the way to new heights for a program that hasn't reached its highest potential.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.
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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.