Coaching great Jack Curran dies

Updated: March 14, 2013, 10:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Jack Curran, who spent more than a half century at Archbishop Molloy High School and was among the nation's winningest prep coaches in basketball and baseball, has died. He was 82.

His death was confirmed Thursday by the Queens school. The family has yet to release further information, the school said.

Curran had been weakened by lung and kidney problems. He broke his kneecap last month when he slipped on ice while on his way to church. The mishap did not prevent him from attending church that day.

Curran coached 55 years at the school. In 1958, he became the basketball coach at what was then St. Ann's Academy. He succeeded Lou Carnesecca, who left to coach St. John's.

NBA players Brian Winters, Kevin Joyce, Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson played under Curran at Archbishop Molloy.

"I just talked to him two days ago, and he was so excited about what [his former Molloy player] Jim Larranaga was doing at Miami," Anderson, who is now the coach at the Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Fla., told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor on Thursday. "Coach said, 'That program couldn't win a game, and I couldn't watch them in the past, and I'm so happy for Jim and what he's done there.'

"Coach sounded so energized. He told me he'd just slipped on some ice and broke his kneecap, but he sounded good. I was shocked this morning when I saw it on Twitter; I didn't believe it. I called his house, and his neighbor answered and said he had died in his sleep. I know he's in a much better place.

"I called him two or three times a month, and he was always like a father figure to me. He was like a father, a grandfather, a mentor, just a great soul. I left LeFrak City as a 14-, 15-year-old from a dysfunctional home, no father, my mother trying to take care of the rent and feed me, and morally I learned so much from Coach Curran. I was just telling my wife this morning how lucky I was, that my career would've gone another way if I didn't go to Molloy and find Coach Curran.

"Every time I got off the phone with Coach Curran I told him, 'I love you,'" Anderson said through tears. "There's far few people that I love, and that's the truth. But I really loved him."

Curran was the winningest coach in New York state with 972 victories in basketball and 1,708 in baseball.

"Those marks will never be broken," Archbishop Molloy president Richard Karsten told The Associated Press.

He lauded Curran for focusing not just on a player's athletic ability but on his "mind, body and spirit" as well.

"He was a hard worker and worked his team very hard," Karsten said. "He had the respect of so many young players, and the older players would come back to see him."

Athletic director Mike McCleary, who worked with Curran for 15 years, said the coach "carried himself with class."

"He taught everybody how to behave by example," he said.

Curran is the only high school coach in the New York state Hall of Fame in both basketball and baseball, Karsten said.

Curran, who lived in Rye, N.Y., was a star college athlete at St. John's who went on to play minor league baseball for the Dodgers and Phillies.

Funeral arrangements were not announced.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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