End of an Era at Molloy: Legendary Coach Jack Curran Dies at 82 (with slideshow)

Jack Curran once said that he would keep coaching for as long as God wills it.

But unfortunately for Curran, God’s willingness ran out the morning of March 14.

Coach Curran (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)
Coach Curran (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)

The Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, and entire N.Y.C. sports community is mourning the loss of the legendary coach, who passed away at the age of 82.

Curran, who coached basketball and baseball at Molloy for 55 years, died peacefully in his sleep in his home in Rye, N.Y., according to the school. He had broken his right kneecap in late February after slipping on black ice and had dealt with lung and kidney problems.

He was actually doing well not too long ago and preparing for the upcoming baseball season. However, Molloy will have to power on without an icon lingering through the halls.

“It’s a very sad day for all of us here at Molloy,” said Richard Karsten, Molloy president. “Coach Curran built a legacy that transcends any traditional notion of coaching high school athletics. To him it was always about the kids. They were the reason for his success. His passing will not only be felt by today’s students, faculty and staff, but generations going back over 50 years.”

Curran was raised in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx and graduated from All Hallows H.S., the Bronx, in 1948. He then went to St. John’s University, where he pitched on the baseball team and was a team captain his senior year.

He played three years of professional baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies farm systems until a back injury ended his playing career. So he decided to give up playing in the minors and turn his attention towards coaching. Curran’s experiences coaching Catholic Youth Organization basketball and semi-pro baseball convinced him to pursue his passion.

In 1958, legendary basketball coach Lou Carnesecca, who was coaching at St. Ann’s, the forerunner of Molloy, left to take an assistant basketball coaching job at St. John’s. Curran’s opportunity arrived, and he remained at Molloy right up until his death.

“I’m greatly saddened by the news today,” said Howard Levitt, a Briarwood native who Curran nicknamed “The Fan,” since Levitt attends many Molloy sports games. “I loved the guy. He was a terrific, humble man. He was like a mentor to me.”

Coach Curran (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)
Coach Curran on the basketball court (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)

Curran is the winningest coach in N.Y.S history, with a varsity basketball record of 972-437 and a varsity baseball record of 1,708-523. Overall, he was 2,680-960 – a winning percentage of .740.

In his 55-year career, he won 17 city championships in baseball and five in basketball. He is the only CHSAA coach to win a basketball and baseball city championship in the same year, which he accomplished four times: 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1987.

“Coach taught us all how we should act on and off the court or field,” said Mike McCleary, Molloy’s athletic director and assistant basketball coach who recently filled in for Curran. “Not being around such a great man is going to be difficult for all of us. Coach will be sorely missed.”

Curran coached NBA stars Kevin Joyce, Brian Winters, Kenny Smith, Kenny Anderson and Sundiata Gaines and MLB players Mike Baxter, Mike Jurzembeck and Ed Kurpiel.

“As a coach, Jack Curran’s record speaks for itself,” Carnesecca said. “I can’t think of anyone in high school sports that had the record that he had in both baseball and basketball. 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. Jack Curran was a giant of scholastic athletics, and that is an understatement.”

Mets' Mike Baxter, left, and Coach Curran. (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)
Mets’ Mike Baxter, left, and Coach Curran. (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)

Baxter, who is currently at New York Mets spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla., said he heard the news via text messages from his former teammates. He said he spoke to Curran last week and thought he sounded fine.

“He was a selfless guy who definitely put all the players he’s had, and even the kids at school, first,” Baxter said. “I definitely think he was a man of strong faith. He wanted to do whatever he could to help kids in New York City be better and get to better spots.”

Curran has been inducted into nine Halls of Fame and has won CHSAA Coach of the Year 25 times in baseball and 22 times in basketball.

“It was an absolute honor to play against him (Curran),” said Christ the King R.H.S., Middle Village, head varsity basketball coach Joe Arbitello.

Even more so than the multitude of wins, Curran shaped the lives of his players both past and present.

“Coach Curran always told us never to give up and to always work hard,” said Chaz Watler, a senior guard on Molloy’s varsity basketball team.

University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., head men’s basketball coach Jim Larranga played for Curran at Molloy in the mid-1960s. Larranaga lived in the Bronx while attending high school, so Curran often drove him home on his way back to Rye and shared stories which each had a moral.

“To play for Jack Curran was an honor and a privilege,” Larranaga said. “I thought he was a great role model, a great teacher and a great mentor to all of his players. I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to follow in his footsteps to become the kind of coach he was and to become the kind of leader that he is.”

Coach Curran on the baseball diamond (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)
Coach Curran on the baseball diamond (Photo courtesy Joseph Sommo, Archbishop Molloy H.S.)

While the awards and championships piled up for Curran over the past half-century, he coached not for the glory but instead for keeping his players on the right track.

“I enjoy every day I spend with the youngsters because it’s a great thing to be able to work with people at that age and try to mold them a little bit and be a part of their success,” he said in a March, 2011 feature in The Tablet.

Molloy was scheduled to rededicate the school’s Jack Curran Gymnasium to Coach Curran on April 28. The baseball team’s opening game scheduled for March 16 has been postponed.

The wake will take place Tuesday March 19 at Graham Funeral Home in Rye, and the funeral Mass will be Wednesday March 20 at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Resurrection in Rye.

Though Coach Curran will be missed, he will forever be the face of the sports program at Archbishop Molloy.