Jack Curran, a Mentor in Two Sports, Dies at 82
Robert Caplin for The New York Times
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: March 14, 2013
Jack Curran, who coached generations of baseball and basketball players for 55 years at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, winning more than 2,600 games, certainly among the most victories that any scholastic coach anywhere has compiled, died late Wednesday or early Thursday at his home in Rye, N.Y. He was 82.
Vic DeLucia/The New York Times
His death was confirmed by Richard Karsten, president of Molloy. Curran had lung and kidney problems, and had broken a kneecap in a fall in February.
“But we were expecting him back in a few weeks, in time to coach the baseball season,” Karsten said.
In 1958, Curran was living in West Springfield, Mass., and working as a building supplies salesman when one morning, over coffee in a diner, he read in a newspaper that St. John’s University, his alma mater, had hired Lou Carnesecca as an assistant basketball coach. Carnesecca had been the baseball and basketball coach at Molloy; Curran applied for the newly vacant jobs, was hired and held onto the positions for 55 years.
Molloy was a powerhouse under his leadership. His teams won 22 Catholic school New York City championships, 5 in basketball and 17 in baseball. Four times — in 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1987 — Molloy won both in the same year.
Curran coached Brian Winters, Kenny Smith, Kenny Anderson and Kevin Joyce, all of whom played in the N.B.A. The current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter played baseball at Molloy for Curran.
Over all, Curran’s record was 972-437 as a basketball coach and 1,708-523 as a baseball coach, the school said.
“He won everything except World War III,” Carnesecca, who spent 24 seasons as the head coach at St. John’s, said about Curran in a 2008 interview in The New York Times. “No one in the country has Jack’s record in both sports, no one.”
Curran, who never married, leaves no immediate survivors. His place of birth could not be confirmed. The school said he was born on Sept. 6, 1930, the son of a New York City police officer, Thomas Curran, and his wife, Helen, who worked for a time in the police commissioner’s office. They lived in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, the school said, but moved to the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, where Jack grew up.
He graduated from All Hallows High School in the Bronx and went on to St. John’s, where he studied English and pitched for the baseball team. For three years he played minor league baseball, pitching for teams in the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies organizations.
As a coach, Curran was known for emphasizing fundamentals, for maintaining discipline and for setting the performance bar at an extraordinarily high level for both his players and the officials — he could be tough on the referees and the umpires.
“Yes, but he was rarely profane or abusive,” said Tom Konchalski, a friend and a widely acknowledged expert on scholastic basketball in New York City. “In 55 years he only had four or five technicals. But yeah, all the top coaches, you try to win the game, so you ride the refs.”
In baseball, Curran was true to his playing roots, stressing pitching, defense and smart play. In basketball, he was more adaptive to the skills of his players.
“When he had his best teams, in the late ’60s, early ’70s, they were running, pressing teams,” Konchalski said. “He liked to pressure, push the ball up the floor. Later on he went to more set plays, and played more zone, because he didn’t think he had the players.”
He was also known for his strong Roman Catholic faith and for generous deeds away from the playing field. In 1969, he turned down an opportunity to take the basketball head coaching job at Boston College because his mother was dying and he was caring for her.
“He was the most selfless man I knew,” the Mets’ Baxter, who played for Curran from 2000 to 2002, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He was so faithful and he just cared so much about the kids on his team, both on and off the court and the field. It really separated him; whether you were playing for him as a junior or senior or whether you were in college or looking for jobs, he would make sure to help you anyway he could. That never stopped to the last day.”