Friday, March 15, 2013

Jack Curran: 1930-2013

Jack Curran, who for 55 years built Archbishop Molloy into a New York powerhouse, passed away yesterday, leaving behind a monumental legacy in the sport.  (Photo courtesy of Newsday)

Anyone who follows high school basketball, even to the smallest of degrees, knows the name Jack Curran.

Arguably the biggest legend in the high school coaching ranks besides Bob Hurley, Curran was New York's version of Hurley, maybe even bigger.  Whereas Hurley has won over 1,000 games at the helm of St. Anthony's in Jersey City, what made the man nicknamed "Red" in his youth so large in stature was his impressive 55-year tenure at the helm of Archbishop Molloy, coaching not just high school hoops, but baseball as well.  It was his prolonged excellence developing two programs and turning older boys into young men who were more than just gifted players along the way that made him so revered.  Yesterday, the pillar of the New York CHSAA passed away, succumbing at the age of 82.

Leaving the world with 972 career wins on the hardwood and 1,708 on the diamond, Curran coached a Who's Who of players on the way to five basketball city championships, including future NBA stars Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith, Louisville guard Russ Smith, and eventual coaches such Miami's Jim Larranaga.  New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter and Minnesota Twins farmhand Matt Rizzotti were among the stars Curran produced on the baseball field for Molloy.

Coming from a Monsignor McClancy graduate, Molloy was among one of our biggest rivals while I was a student there, but if you appreciated basketball, baseball, or just fine coaching at all, you respected Curran.  End of story.  He was just that good at what he did for so long that everyone, regardless of whether or not you hated his teams, had to tip their cap to him for his ability to get the most out of everyone who was fortunate enough to learn under him.  Kenny Anderson described him as "more than a coach" to him, while Russ Smith paid tribute to his former mentor on the court last night, tying Louisville's single game Big East Tournament scoring record with 28 points in the Cardinals' quarterfinal rout of Villanova.

"He won everything except World War III," said Lou Carnesecca, who coached basketball and baseball at Molloy before Curran was hired to replace him in 1958 when Carnesecca took the assistant coach position at St. John's.  "No one in the country has Jack's record in both sports," Carnesecca went on to say.  "No one."

While I was in high school, Neil Giannelli, a Molloy alum who was one of my history teachers, had said on several occasions that "the hardest act to follow in New York sports is going to be the guy that replaces Jack Curran at Molloy."  That statement alone should tell you just how much of a reputation and how much of a legend Curran built in his lifetime in coaching, lasting longer than some people even have the chance to live.

Two sports, 2,680 wins.  Countless championships and future professionals.  One man who started it all, who now coaches for a higher power.

Rest in peace, Jack.

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