Somebody said Jack Curran should have been a priest, and somebody else said, he was.
This old-fashioned man, who coached basketball and baseball, and lived his faith, passed on Thursday at 82.
The obits all said he never married, that he passed up college coaching jobs so he could take care of his mother, and how he pitched batting practice for Molloy into his late ‘70’s.
“How’s your arm?” I would ask when I called for some old-fashioned city wisdom.
“Not bad,” he would say.
He blew out the arm in the minor leagues, which pushed him into coaching two sports for nearly six decades.
A few hours after Curran passed, I received an email from a reader I did not know.
Write something about Coach, it asked.
Of course, I did not need to write a word. Three of my favorite writers at the Times have captured him perfectly:
Vincent Mallozzi on Curran’s 50th anniversary:
And Bruce Weber, in the obituary:
So nobody needs me. But as a son of the city, I can remember him as a scrawny, big-eared red-headed sub with the good St. John’s basketball teams, intense, observant. I can remember my brother Peter, later a landmark basketball columnist in this town, playing both sports for Curran.
As a younger reporter, I thought Curran was a bit single-minded, and probably so did his players. The older we got, the wiser he became. Funny how that works.
In recent years, I went to Curran for wisdom, for opinion, for honesty. He knew what he knew. When area baseball coaches went along with the aluminum-bat lobby, Curran put together anecdotal impressions of youngsters being skulled by line drives that never should have traveled that fast. He lobbied his school to vote against the bats. It was the right thing to do, and he did it. This is what I wrote:
He was proud of graduates like Jim Larranaga who went on to coach George Mason in the Final Four:
I must add, he agitated for every break, the way the John Woodens and Dean Smiths did. A friend who played for a Queens public school recalled how annoying Curran could be, pestering the refs and the umpires. But his players were well-taught, my friend added, and they were tough.
Dan Barry noted the yin/yang of Jack Curran’s quotidian life, Mass, commuting across the bridge, coaching everybody, even kids on the opposing bench.
Barry wrote how Curran balanced “his daily aggressive commands – ‘Box out!’ -- with that saying of St. Francis of Assisi he carries: ‘Preach the Gospel every day and when necessary, use words.’”
Jack Curran kept that saying folded in his wallet. When people compared him to a priest, even in these complicated times, it was meant as an old-fashioned compliment.
Comments about Jack Curran are welcome here.
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.
"People have said to me, ‘You’re fully vaccinated. Why are you being so careful?’” said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “I’m still in the camp of I don’t want to get Covid. I don’t want to get a breakthrough infection.”
---Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2021.