Those who knew, or played for, long-time Archbishop Molloy High School Coach Jack Curran said he had a lasting touch on the entire school community.
“I’ve talked to alumni who told me, ‘I didn’t play for him, but I always felt like he was my coach,’” said Molloy Athletic Director Mike McCleary, who worked with the storied coach for the last 15 years. “He had a major effect on the entire school, and made it into an extraordinary school.”
Curran died Thursday, March 14 peacefully in his sleep, according to a release from the school. He was 82.
Between coaching Varsity Basketball and Varsity Baseball, Curran touted a combined record of 2,680-960, according to the school. The Catholic High School Athletic Association honored him as Coach of the Year 25 times for baseball and 22 times for basketball. Curran would steer Molloy to 17 baseball CHSAA City Championships and 5 Basketball CHSAA City Championships during his half-century career.
“I think he was the best coach there ever was,” McCleary said of Curran’s life’s work. “But he was an even better person.”
Curran came to Molloy in 1958 after the head basketball coaching position opened up when Lou Carnesecca moved to St. John’s for his own lengthy career. Carnesecca, in a statement from St. John’s, said Curran had an unmatchable record, and way of mentoring young players.
“The individuals that he produced at Molloy form an outstanding group, and he went out of his way to help so many over the years that were not from Molloy,” Carnesecca said. “Jack Curran was a giant of scholastic athletics, and that is an understatement.”
During his 55-year career, Curran helped foster a number of professional baseball and basketball players into illustrious college and major league careers, including current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter, 1972 Team USA Olympic Basketball captain Kevin Joyce and current University of Louisville guard Russ Smith.
Before a pre-season game in Florida on March 14, Baxter was reported to have wiped tears from his eyes when addressing reporters on the loss of his high school coach. That night, an equally mournful Smith put up 28 points as the Cardinals moved a game ahead in the Big East Tournament.
“It was really hard for me to take it all in because a guy like Coach, obviously, he’s old age, but you just wouldn’t think twice of him ever passing,” Smith said after the game. “It was really, really hard for me to like just focus ahead and to just put it all together. I really have no words, but I miss him a lot. I’m going to miss him.”
McCleary said his friend had the ability to work with young players and making them better.
“Where he’s always excelled is being able to relate to the student-athletes to get them to do what needs to be done,” he said.