NEW YORK — There are coaching legends and then there is Jack Curran.
The longtime Archbishop Molloy High School boys basketball and baseball coach died in his sleep Wednesday night in his Rye home. He was 82.
Curran had more combined career wins in basketball and baseball — 2,680 — than any other high school coach in United States history.
“Jack Curran was a giant of scholastic athletics, and that is an understatement,” said Hall of Fame St. John University's basketball coach Lou Carnesecca.
Curran took over as Archbishop Molloy coach when Carnesecca left the school previously known as St. Ann’s to become a St. John’s assistant.
At the time, Curran, who attended All Hallows High School and St. John’s before playing minor league baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies organizations, was selling building materials in western Massachusetts.
Curran had unparalleled success coaching both programs. He had 972 wins and captured five Catholic High School Athletic Association basketball titles, sending seven players to the NBA, including Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson. He also coached NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
“He was never just a coach to me — he was like a father figure,” said Anderson, who was drafted second overall by the Nets in 1991. “I had the talent, but he molded me into a leader. It was the way he guided me.”
Anderson said he last spoke to Curran, who suffered a broken kneecap last month after falling on ice in his driveway, two days ago. Despite declining health — Curran was undergoing dialysis and was treated for a cancerous tumor in his lungs in the fall — Anderson’s former coach was in great spirits.
“He sounded so energetic,” Anderson said. “To get this call, it’s a bad day.”
Curran also won 1,708 baseball games and led the Stanners to 17 city titles during his tenure. Five times — 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1987 — Curran led Molloy to the championship in both sports.
“He was my inspiration for wanting to be a coach,” said University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who played at Molloy from 1963 to 1967. “I wanted to be just like him.”
However, Curran’s legacy goes beyond wins and losses. He remained a part of his players' lives, well beyond their high school careers. And those players would return in droves to see Curran. Post-game in his office at the Briarwood school often resembled a receiving line.
“Coach Curran built a legacy that transcends any notion of coaching high school athletics,” Molloy President Richard Karsten said. “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’s cause of death was unknown as of Thursday afternoon and funeral arrangements were pending.
What is known, though, is the impact Curran had on high school athletics.
“It all started for me when I went to Molloy,” Anderson said. “He would always be the best coach I ever played for. I’m not talking about X’s and O’s, but about how much he cared. There’s not too many people I love, but I truly love Coach Curran.”