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In his 51 years at the helm of Archbishop Molloy High School (Queens, N.Y.), coach Jack Curran has won more than 900 games (a New York state record), captured five Catholic League city titles, been inducted into nine Hall of Fames and, best yet, helped 475 young men receive athletic scholarships -- including eight All-Americans such as Kenny Smith, Kenny Anderson and Kevin Joyce. During his run, Scholastic Coach Magazine named Curran coach of the year 22 times and coach of the century. He also owns a treasure chest full of accolades as the school's baseball coach, amassing more than 1,600 wins and 17 city championships.
|Legendary coach Jack Curran started his career as a salesman.|
An All Hallows High School (Bronx, N.Y.) graduate and former professional baseball player, Curran came to Molloy in 1958 after reading in a local newspaper that the school's coach, Lou Carnesecca, was headed to St. John's University. Since following in the footsteps of the celebrated Carnesecca, Curran has inspired roughly 40 of his former players to join the sideline profession.
Still fit and healthy like the teenagers he coaches, one thing you'll never hear him preach about is pension benefits.
"If you ask me, we're not going to allow him to retire. No way," says Molloy's athletic director, Michael McCleary. "When he wants to retire, we'll figure out a way to make him come in every day."ESPNRISE.com sat down with Curran. Prepare to get schooled. RISE: What do you credit your success and longevity to, being in the game for 51 years? When you look back on it, what has helped you get to the next step every year and keep going?
RISE: It also keeps you young, too, when you're coaching teenagers.
Curran: Yeah, as long as you have good rapport with them, which we've always had. We've had good relationships with our players. We're not as overbearing as we were 30 years ago because now the kids are a little more -- you don't like to say softer, but they're almost treated with "chick love" since they were born. They get everything they want. So to get them to do everything you want them to do, you have to be tactful about it, you know.
I went out to see him and I said, "Lou, what are they doing down here that's so and so, what are they doing against the press, what are they doing against man-to-man -- stuff like that." Lou would grab out his pad and diagram stuff. I still have some of the stuff here.
He was a great student of the game because he worked Clair Bee's camp for three summers -- like eight weeks every summer he'd spend the whole time up there. Clair Bee always had guest coaches come in from all over the country -- the top coaches like Press Maravich and Loeffler. They'd come in and lecture, and Lou would take notes. He taught himself everything about the game. He was probably the greatest student of the game I ever met. I think Bobby Knight is probably right up there now.RISE: Who was the best player you coached and why?
|Curran has coached Molloy's basketball team to more than 900 wins and the baseball team to more than 1,600 wins.|
RISE: How about the best player you coached against?
Curran: The guy who could control the game the most was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar [at New York City's Power Memorial High School]. I mean, it was impossible to get a shot off inside the foul line against him. He totally changed the game. You had to play a totally different game against him. So it would have to be him. In this gym here, the best performance I saw offensively put on was in a scrimmage game by Roger Brown [at Brooklyn's Wingate High School] who later played for the Pacers.
So the kids are listening to a lot of voices. A lot of times even their parents are more involved. Naturally parents are going to be more involved with their own children and concerned about them, whereas we try to blend their child in with 11 or 12 other guys on the team. It makes it more difficult. I think the kids are a little more self-concerned than they used to be. At one time, it was more of a team concept. You still get it, but it's not as natural or as easy.
RISE: How much, in your mind, has the business of high school basketball changed? There are more tournaments, there are more AAU teams, there are more sneaker contracts.
Curran: There's too much of that stuff. I think it's overdone. I think they do too much traveling when they can play against good competition just around here. There are too many AAU guys out there who want to latch onto the kids and get them to do everything they want them to do, and tell them where they should go to college. I think it's a little more difficult for the kid to figure out who's in their best interest because they're young. Eventually they see the light. Most of them know I'm in their corner completely and I will help them. As long as you're out there trying to help them, I think you can get anything out of them.
RISE: When your kids are getting noticed by colleges for their talents, is there any part of the recruiting process that you prefer not to deal with?
Curran: Well, there are so many guys now -- we were talking about computers before -- with these online services, putting kids' names on the computers as the best sixth grader or best seventh grader in the country, or the world. They list players from all over the place as the best. I mean, it's kind of crazy. They should just leave the kids alone and let them grow into their own games and go to the schools they want to go to. I think there should be no recruiting on this level and the kids who want to come to your school should be the ones that you coach. I think it would be a much better game.
|Curran was honored with a permanent place at Molloy.|
I think gradually a lot of those youngsters have drifted into our programs where now it's kind of balanced out, even though the public schools are still very good. I think it's a much more difficult job coaching in the public schools than it is in our schools because there are too many distractions. In these schools, there are no distractions, there are no disciplinary problems.
RISE: Do you enjoy watching playground basketball in the city?
Curran: School yard stuff? No, I wouldn't go. I remember I went up to Clair Bee's sports camp and the pros used to put on a game for that fella, Maurice Stokes, who played for St. Francis College who died [from a brain injury after hitting his head on the court during a game]. Jack Twyman kind of adopted him and used to raise money for him.
Then the camp had a high school all-star game. I remember I was in Clair Bee's office, because I was going to watch that game, and I said to him, "Coach, aren't you going to come down and watch the game? It's right down the hill on your own property here." He said, "Nah, that's just another pickup game" [laughs]. So basically that's what they are -- just pickup games, like at West 4th St. and Rucker Park. They're just showboating games. People like to watch them. The kid on the Knicks would like them -- the little guy, Nate Robinson. He's terrific. He would love those games. I watched him hang on the rim last night and I said, "He would love the Rucker."
RISE: The fashion styles have changed so much in basketball. Do the players ever get on you and say, "Hey, Jack, you should put on a chain or some baggy shorts?" Do the players have fun with you with that kind of stuff?
Curran: If I did anything different, they would like that [laughs]. Like if I came out with a diamond earring on, they would go crazy. Because I always ask them about that stuff.
RISE: Have you picked up any slang lingo from the kids?
Curran: I have my own lingo. I don't know if the kids understand half of it [laughs].
RISE: Do you have a motto or catch phrase you like to use with the kids?
Curran: No, I just have different sayings I come up with. I write a lot of stuff down. I sometimes give them a little saying for the day. I do like "those that matter don't mind, and those that mind don't matter." So you can't worry about others.
RISE: Through the years, your name has graced many awards and honors. What's been one of the most unique ones you've received that made you say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming"?
Curran: The box of clementines that came in today for me [laughs].
Jared Zwerling covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.