We all have those individuals who inspired us as kids. Maybe it was a teacher who took the extra time to make sure you knew that they cared. Maybe it was the grandmother who never said “no,” or the neighbor who always made sure you had enough to eat. Maybe it was a coach who always made you believe in yourself.
In the Philadelphia basketball community, Ed Hurtt, known mostly as “Coach Ed,” “Productions,” and “EDP,” has been that figure. For over 30 years, Hurtt has poured his heart and soul into youth basketball throughout the Tri-State area, coaching kids, hosting camps and inspiring kids to graduate high school and pursue a college education. And now, although his efforts are far from over, the Sixers have named him 76ers Jr. NBA Coach of the Year, after an overwhelming amount of public nominations.
And while it’s certainly appreciated, recognition has never been something Hurtt has needed.
“When you've been doing stuff this long and you've been doing it from the heart, you don't look for rewards,” Hurtt told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I just try to remind my participants to always be humble in life, no matter how successful you get, always be humble and don't forget where you come from.”
For Hurtt, it all started when he was about 12 years old and volunteering for the Sonny Hill Basketball League, an amateur summer basketball organization founded in 1968.
“That's all we would do in the summer,” Hurtt remembered of looking forward to The Sonny Hill League as a kid. “It was really fun because you could be around all the basketball players … and as you get older, you challenge yourself and learn from the older guys.”
But there was another reason, too.
“We had gang warfare back in those days, street territory,” Sonny Hill told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “And Eddie felt like it was a safe haven for him. … In other words, North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, Germantown and other sections. … If you were in those neighborhoods, and you were involved in the Sonny Hill League, then the gangs would give you a safe pass because they had such great respect for what it is that we were doing, which was using basketball as a vehicle to interact with young people to help them become better human beings. And Eddie was a part of that.”
Eventually Hurtt would take the concepts he learned in that league, as well as his experiences as an assistant under Coach Kenny Hamilton at Benjamin Franklin High School, and start his own program.
“Our model was, ‘We're more than just basketball,’ and that’s our slogan,” Hurtt said of his Youth Working Together (YWT) program, where he currently coaches.
Thinking back to the early days, Hurtt remembers participants bringing their book bags in every Friday while he checked school work and receiving confirmation that the kids fulfilled duties at home. He even required them to have a library card.
Now, he’s on his participants as early as 10th grade to take the SAT.
“I tell them my goal is to get you into college, and it's up to you to move forward,” Hurtt said. “I'm really up front with them. Everyone is not going to play professional basketball. There's just not enough jobs for it, but they can't take knowledge from you, so I worked my tail off to make sure that we can get them into college.”
“He knew playing ball was a good thing, but it’s an avenue you can use,” former Sixer Marc Jackson, who first met Hurtt around 30 years ago through youth programs, said. “Without the mixture of academics, you would never get the opportunity you seek … and the way he related to you would make you pay close attention to him.”
“He was always making sure I was on top of school, making sure GPA and SAT scores matched,” Mark Tyndale, a Philly native and player development coach for the Toronto Raptors, told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He was always at all my high school and college games. … He was just like a proud father to see my success and see me do well. He was the first one to congratulate me when I got the job with the Raptors.”
Tyndale came up through Hurtt’s program at the same time as Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and rapper Meek Mill.
“I will never forget when Meek Mill’s first mixtape came out,” Tyndale remembers. “Me, Ed and Meek Mill’s mom were walking in the record store (Phenomenal Records) at the same time to support his upcoming music. … Even though he’s a basketball guy, he is very supportive of any kind of craft, always about education and just seeing guys make it out the neighborhood and do well for themselves.”
“We come from a rough neighborhood, so just to see a guy like Coach Ed in the community, it really keeps the balance in the neighborhood and I think we need more people like him in the world.”
One of Jackson’s greatest memories of Hurtt goes back to his days in the Sonny Hill College League. He was hyped after one of his big games, which he said usually coincided after watching NBA draft picks.
“I had a really good game, after watching the NBA draft," Jackson said, "and I remember Ed being like, ‘Yeah that’s good, Marc, but that needs to be every day and every game. You can’t come in here and do that sometimes. … When he said that it kind of woke me up. It made me realize the importance of consistency. That one statement, at that time, when I think I’m dominating, that for me, helped remind me how consistency is the key. … He’s always been that guy to count on, to be honest, no matter what.”
And that goes to show one of Hurtt’s greatest strengths and gifts to the Philadelphia community.
“Taking kids that are kind of rough around the edges, like me, and mentoring them to understand that there is a bigger goal,” Jackson said.
“He has seen a lot of people come up,” Tyndale said. “There are people that came way before us and people that are going to come way after us that he is going to help get to where they are trying to go, and the future is really bright with Ed.”
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