Kevin Kurbec’s arms were folded. It was last Saturday night and the Providence Friars had confirmed a reservation to a place that the program hadn’t been to in a quarter-century.
Standing outside the team locker room inside Buffalo’s KeyTrust Center, Kurbec looked down the hallway to see head coach Ed Cooley and several players go through another round of interviews after stepping off the postgame podium. In keeping with his role as Director of Basketball Operations, Kurbec’s mind kept telling him to tend to the next task at hand – be it confirming the next day’s flight back to Providence or lining up a court in Chicago to hold practice. (Paging fellow Big East member DePaul!)
To Kurbec, full speed ahead is the only option. There are plenty of loose ends to be tied up before the Friars face one of college basketball’s glamour teams in the Sweet 16. Haste makes waste – even amidst the backdrop of PC advancing out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since … how long has it been again?
As the quest to obtain soundbites from the jubilant band of Friars continued, Kurbec unplugged himself long enough to let the moment wash over him – albeit for a very good reason.
“For me, it’s been 21 of the last 24 years,” he said. “You invest so much … the sacrifices you make. Something like this is special. It means a lot. You need to enjoy it because it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. Seasons like this don’t come around very often.”
A Smithfield native who graduated from Providence College in 2002, Kurbec’s tenure with the Friars has resembled one gigantic meteoric rise. Serving as a student manager during all four years as an undergraduate, Kurbec progressed to graduate assistant before taking on the role of Director of Basketball Ops under former PC head coach Tim Welsh.
After a coaching run that lasted three seasons at Bryant University, Kurbec returned to his alma mater in 2011 – the same year Cooley came aboard as head coach.
“Kevin was the first guy I called when I got the job,” said Cooley.
As someone who attended Providence games as a youngster before advancing his career to the point where his professional life revolves around just about all aspects of Friar basketball, Kurbec shared why the program means so much to so many around the state.
“These are people you knew while growing up or went to the games with. To do it for the Providence family means a lot – all the alums and former players that I’ve worked with during my tenure,” said Kurbec. “From going to games when you’re five or six, to sitting on the bench … it’s something I didn’t think was possible.”
From the sound of it, Kurbec budgeted a 24-hour window to bask in the glow of a rare accomplishment before turning the page.
“I would love to have a moment like this become a regular occurrence. It’s taken 24 years of my life to get to this point once,” he said. “It’s not done. We’re playing a great team and the No. 1 seed in Kansas on Friday in Chicago.”
.@CoachCooleyPC and Kevin Kurbec from #ProvidenceCollege visited our campus today for “Lessons in Leadership,” a Q&A session about attracting, developing and retaining talent. Thank you, Ed and Kevin, for joining us! @providencecol @PCFriarsmbb #GoFriars pic.twitter.com/tzo3hfozvP
— Amica Insurance (@Amica) June 27, 2018
On a personal note, Kurbec cited a specific reason this year’s Providence squad has been so successful.
“When we’ve had adversity, we’ve responded,” said Kurbec. “We get blown out by Marquette in January, then win eight in a row. We get blown out by Creighton in the Big East Tournament, then we come to Buffalo and play two of our best games of the season.
“The way they’ve responded … it’s definitely as special of a group that I’ve been around.”
The final seconds were ticking down in the 79-51 bludgeoning of Richmond. As Cooley walked down the bench last Saturday, he grabbed Kurbec and gave him a huge hug. It was a fitting exchange between two Rhode Island natives with Cooley making sure to convey the importance of soaking everything in.
“I told him to enjoy the moment,” said Cooley.
“Growing up in Smithfield, I never imagined I would be standing here as far as Providence College and the Sweet 16,” said Kurbec, the staff member who allowed the merry-go-round to spin around a few times before jumping off and diving into doing his part to help the Friars prepare for the Jayhawks.