Updated Tuesday, Feb. 17, 1:48 p.m.
Vince O’Connor, the legendary and beloved football coach at St. Francis Prep for more than six decades, died on Friday night. He was 85.
Sources close to O’Connor said he passed away at his daughter’s home in Floral Park.
News of O’Connor’s death came as a blow to students, colleagues and the thousands of alumni whose lives he touched during 62 years as football coach. He has been at the helm of the school’s football team since 1952 when St. Francis Prep was at North Sixth Street in Brooklyn.
Hundreds of people who knew O’Connor came out to show their respect at his wake on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the school is expecting a large crowd to be at the funeral, which will take place Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the school’s auditorium.
During his storied career, O’Connor amassed more than 300 victories to be among the top two winningest football coaches in state history. His teams have won 16 CHSFL titles, including 14 at the highest level, and he has coached nine players who went on to the NFL.
But his greatest legacy may be the tight-knit community that he helped build around the school and his football program. With rare exceptions, all of his assistant coaches over the years have come from the ranks of his former players.
O’Connor, friends said, never intended to retire despite his age.
“I enjoy what I do. It’s as simple as that,” he said in a published report two years ago.
Under Coach O’Connor, the Terriers posted undefeated seasons in 1957, 1964, 1966, 1972, 1973 and 1983. In 1992, he was honored as National Coach of the year.
O’Connor has been named New York’s Catholic High School Coach of the Year 20 times and he has served as president of the CHSFL. He was selected in 2000 for the Frank McGuire Foundation Award, which recognizes high school coaches for their positive impact on students.
He is survived by his wife Mary, his daughter Rose and her three children, Patrick, Connor and Dylan.