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‘Rest in paradise, coach’: Beloved Junípero Serra basketball coach Dwan Hurt passes away at 53

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Coach Dwan Hurt huddles with his team during a 2013 game.(LANG Staff Photo by Sean Hiller)

The record books will show that, in his 27 years coaching Junípero Serra High School’s Varsity Basketball team, Dwan Hurt amassed a stellar 500-plus wins, which included eight CIF-SS titles, two state titles and a Division 4AA championship last season. But Hurt’s legacy is something far, far greater.

The Serra community was shocked and saddened to learn on the morning after Thanksgiving that Hurt, himself a Serra graduate in 1981, had passed away in his sleep at the age of 53.

Hurt, who also served as Serra’s dean of discipline, was just one week away from beginning what would have been his 28th season at the helm for the Cavaliers.

Hurt was a standout point guard for the Cavaliers in his high school days, and even went on to play college basketball for Gonzaga, where he served as the backup point guard for Hall of Famer John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals.

But if you ask the many Serra players who looked up to him as a role model, the many coaches around the CIF who relied on him as a mentor and the many Serra faculty members who referred to him as a friend and brother, Hurt’s real gift was his tremendous integrity and contagious compassion.

“Dwan was amazing with the kids,” said Serra head football coach Scott Altenberg, who worked closely with Hurt for 23 of Hurt’s 27 years on the Serra faculty. “He had a way of being tough, but also showing a lot of love, and making sure that they understood how much he cared for them. You can’t fake that. He had a genuine love for the kids, and a genuine want to change their lives and help them.”

According to Altenberg, Hurt served as a sturdy support system not only for the students who stepped on Serra’s basketball court and walked its halls, but also for his fellow coaches.

“My first year as a head coach, we only won two games that season, and there were people wondering if I was the right guy for the job,” recalled Altenberg. “[Hurt] came up to me and said, ‘I believe in you. I like what you’ve done, and I think you’re gonna be great for this school.’ And that was so big for me to have someone like him, who was established, who had won a state championship, to be in my corner. I give a lot of credit to him for helping me make it from a struggling program to the program we are now.”

Indeed, Hurt’s generosity in offering encouragement to those who needed it most had a lasting impact on countless Serra students, alums and members of the community, as indicated by the outpouring of kind words and support for Hurt and his family on Twitter immediately after the news of his passing broke.

“Lost for words right now. … Thank you for your time, teachings, love, support,” tweeted former Serra basketball star and member of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings Pooh Jeter.

“The man, the myth, the legend Coach Hurt: rest in paradise coach, and thank you for everything,” added Serra alum and current USC wide receiver Adoree Jackson, who, the day after Hurt’s passing, honored his former coach by catching three touchdown passes in the Trojans’ 45-27 win over rival Notre Dame.

The stunned sadness surrounding Hurt’s passing has also been palpable on Serra’s campus, where Hurt was a fixture not only in the hallways and on the basketball sideline, but also at many a school event. “He always had Serra High School in his heart first, so no matter what happened, we always knew he was doing the best thing not for him or his program, but for Serra High School in general,” said Altenberg.

A prayer service at Serra shortly after Hurt’s passing was followed by a funeral Mass Dec. 10 at the St. Catherine Laboure Church in Torrance and interment at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. And now, for the first time in almost 30 years, Serra’s basketball team will proceed without Coach Hurt on the sideline, and his longtime assistant Bernard McCrumby will be tasked with replacing an irreplaceable Serra legend — a task McCrumby accepts with the heaviest of hearts.

“He had a heart as big as the Pacific Ocean,” remembered McCrumby, who last week led the Cavaliers to their first win of the young season over Venice High School before losing back-to-back heartbreakers in the Beverly Hills Sax Elliott Invitational to Brentwood (by three points) and Windward (by two points in overtime).

“There were two things he loved more than anything: his family and Serra High School.”

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