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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Kenny Anderson was a star at Georgia Tech and a mainstay in the NBA.
But it was his time at Archbishop Molloy High School under the tutelage of coach Jack Curran that laid the groundwork for his future. Thursday was emotional for Anderson, who learned his legendary mentor had died at 82.
“I’m kind of cloudy,” Anderson told WFAN’s Steve Somers on Thursday night. “It’s been an up-and-down day for me, very emotional.”
Anderson said he was “just a snotty-nosed, arrogant kid” from Queens when he met Curran.
And then it all changed.
“It wasn’t just basketball,” Anderson said. “He taught me how to lead at a very young age. Playing varsity as a freshman was real big for me, and it really taught me how to deal with different adversities. … If it wasn’t for Molloy and Jack Curran, there’s no telling how my career would have gone.”
Curran broke his kneecap last month — he was en route to church and still managed to attend, fitting for a man known for showing up day after day without fail. The 82-year-old recently had been weakened by kidney and lung problems.
“I spoke to him two days ago,” said a very emotional Anderson. “I got to talk to him two days ago and he seemed in great spirits. It’s amazing how life is. One day you’re here and the next day you’re gone.”
Curran coached some of the brightest stars in New York City basketball: Anderson, Kevin Joyce, Kenny Smith and Russ Smith among them. He was also a legend on the diamond, winning 17 city championships in baseball to go with five in basketball.
He went 972-437 in hoops and 1,708-523 in baseball. Curran is the only New York City coach ever to win a championship in both sports in the same year. And guess what? He did it four times.
Anderson broke down when reflecting on how hard — make that impossible — it was to get a compliment out of his former coach.
“To this day, and it’s true, he never one-on-one, Jack Curran, in my face gave me a compliment,” said Anderson, who was among the nation’s top prospects. “Never said, you know, ‘I’m proud of you.’ Like, as a player, he just wouldn’t compliment. He just wouldn’t. He would tell someone else. So — it’s just emotional, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
Anderson was picked second overall by the then-New Jersey Nets in the 1991 draft. He went on to be a journeyman of sorts, retiring after the 2004-05 season.
“I always wondered, was he proud of me as far as academically, what I went through at Molloy, and how hard I had to work stay at Molloy and to stay eligible and to get good grades. He was more than a coach to me. He was more than a coach to me,” Anderson said.
Curran came of age in the Bronx before moving to Rye, N.Y. He’s a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Oh, and eight other Halls of Fame.
Bottom line: his accolades are far too numerous to mention. And they could never give proper credit to a two-sport mentor who meant so much to the city and his players.
“This is a great soul,” said Anderson. “And I know Molloy, he will be missed. It’s kind of eerie, when you think of Molloy baseball (and) basketball, you think of Jack Curran. He’s no longer going to be there. He’ll be there in spirit.”
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