NEW YORK — Jack Curran spent more than five decades compiling what is among the best coaching records in high school basketball and baseball.
When former players, opponents, and those close to high school sports spoke of him upon learning of his death Thursday at 82, wins and titles did not matter. They all spoke of the coach who spent the last half century helping players — and not just those at his school — to get scholarships to college.
‘‘He was one of the true saints in scholastic sports,’’ said Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca, whom Mr. Curran succeeded at Archbishop Molloy High School. ‘‘His records will always stand and be tough to break. However, it’s what he did for kids that was more important.’’
Mr. Curran had been weakened by lung and kidney problems and underwent dialysis the past few years but rarely missed a game or practice.
He broke his kneecap last month when he slipped on ice on his way to church. The mishap did not prevent him from attending church. He said in a private conversation Wednesday that he was looking forward to getting on the baseball field as soon as his knee healed.
‘‘He was a hard worker and worked his team very hard,’’ Archbishop Molloy president Richard Karsten said. ‘‘He had the respect of so many young players, and the older players would come back to see him.’’
Those former players included some of New York City’s biggest names in high school basketball: 1972 Olympian Kevin Joyce, Kenny Smith, Kenny Anderson, and Russ Smith.
‘‘I’m not sure in my life there is anybody who has more of an impact on my life than Mr. Curran,’’ said Whitey Rigsby, a member of Molloy’s city championship basketball teams in 1973 and 1974. ‘‘I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that.’’
Rigsby was raised a Protestant but was encouraged by Mr. Curran to attend the Catholic high school.
‘‘There were 1,599 Catholics and me,’’ said Rigsby, who went on to play at Villanova and still works in athletic development at the school. ‘‘I have five sons, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t quote something Mr. Curran told me 40 years ago. That will never change.’’
His teams won five city championships in basketball and 17 in baseball. No other New York City coach has ever won a title in both sports in the same year, Mr. Curran did it four times: 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1987. His record was 972-437 in basketball and 1,708-523 in baseball.
Karsten lauded Mr. Curran for focusing not just on a player’s athletic ability but on his ‘‘mind, body, and spirit’’ as well.
Mr. Curran is the only high school coach in the New York State Hall of Fame in both basketball and baseball, Karsten said.
He won city championships in three different decades and has been elected into nine different Halls of Fame, including the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.