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Legendary Archbishop Molloy coach Jack Curran embodied character and kindness as much as he did victories and championships.
The basketball and baseball coach, who was in his 55th year on the bench, died in his sleep at the age of 82 last Thursday at his Rye, N.Y. home. Those close to him remembered the man and the coach, who didn’t always enjoy the attention success brought.
“He was a perfect Christian gentleman,” Molloy’s longtime assistant baseball coach, Brother James Vagan, said. “He was very modest and humble. He really did not like all the accolades that people gave to him, which he certainly deserved.”
Curran leaves behind an unprecedented legacy that includes more wins (2,680) in baseball and basketball combined than any other high school coach in the state’s history. He began coaching at Molloy in 1958 and took over the basketball team from legendary St. John’s University Coach Lou Carnesecca.
Curran went on to have a storied career that included 17 CHSAA baseball titles, five hoops crown and a combined 47 Coach of the Year awards. He won city titles in three different decades and is a member of nine different Halls of Fame. He may also lead coaches in the number of kids he influenced.
“He’s been a father to so many people and he’s touched so many lives,” said basketball scout, close friend and Molloy alum Tom Konchalski. “We will never see another like him.”
Curran missed the final three weeks of this year’s boys’ basketball season after breaking his kneecap when he fell outside his home and Athletic Director Mike McCleary filled in. Curran was in rehab and was hoping to be back to see the Stanners in the CHSAA playoffs. He was also undergoing dialysis and had been treated for lung cancer over the summer. None of that affected his abilities as a coach.
“This year he was at his A game,” said Fran Leary, who was a basketball assistant under Curran for 26 years. “After this year you thought he could go another 10 more years.”
The news hit the current baseball team, which was just beginning its season, extremely hard. Senior captain Chris Piteo said there was a somber mood in school. The players chose to dedicate the upcoming campaign to Curran.
“We have to win this season for him because that’s what he would have wanted,” Piteo said.
Sports have always been in Curran’s blood. The Bronx native, who never married, was a three-sport athlete at All Hallows and then a baseball player at St. John’s University. He went on to play Minor League baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies organizations.
He turned down opportunities to coach in college. In 1969 he had an offer from Boston College. He was the school’s top choice before Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daley took the job. Instead Curran when on to lead Molloy to the CHSAA city title in basketball and baseball in 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1987, a feat that is still unmatched.
Curran coached former NBA players Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Brian Winters, Kevin Joyce, Robert Werdann and Sundiata Gaines. Current Louisville basketball star Russ Smith and New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter also played for Curran.
His teachings went beyond sports, truly shaping himself and his legacy.
“He taught me a lot about not only the game of baseball, but of life,” former Molloy pitcher Jonathan Roman said. “He gave me his confidence and allowed me to work with it.”
John Sikiric, a former playing in both sports, said a friend of his had his baseball career ended by Molloy in the playoffs and broke down crying. The first person to console him was Curran.
“He helped everyone and anyone if he could,” Sikiric said. “That was who coach was, truly a great person.”
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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