North Hills coach McCurry resigns after 35 seasons
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Jack McCurry isn't sure if he would like to coach football again. But he is certain his days as North Hills High School's coach are over.
McCurry, who put the North Hills program on the WPIAL football map, resigned Monday night as coach. He coached the Indians for 35 seasons and is one of the most successful coaches in Western Pennsylvania history. He is third on the WPIAL all-time list of victories with a record of 281-108-9. Only Upper St. Clair's Jim Render and Blackhawk's Joe Hamilton have won more games in the WPIAL.
"I don't know what I'm going to do yet. Maybe call it a semi-retirement," McCurry, 63, said. "I'm going to take some time off, travel with my wife [Beth] and go to Florida for a few weeks and maybe a couple other places, just doing things I haven't been able to do in about 40 years."
The field house at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium is named after McCurry, a man who seemed to revel in a "bad-guy" image. In a 1982 playoff run, McCurry coached in a New York Yankees batting helmet because he figured everyone hated the Yankees.
While McCurry liked the bad-guy image, he certainly was good for North Hills. He won four WPIAL titles and one PIAA title. His 1987 team is legendary, finishing ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. His 1979 team was one of the best defensive teams in WPIAL history. The Indians lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Penn Hills, but gave up only 19 points in 12 games. One of the two touchdowns North Hills gave up was on an interception return.
McCurry coached many talented players over the years, including three Parade All-Americans (LaVar Arrington, T.J. Osman and Eric Kasperowicz). He also coached Mark Kelso, who had a long career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
"Arrington was probably the best, just because he was such a tremendous athlete," McCurry said.
As for the best player he coached against, McCurry said it might have been former Upper St. Clair star running back-defensive back Sean Lee, a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys.
Before taking over at North Hills, McCurry spent six years as an assistant coach, two at Pine-Richland and four at North Hills. He took over for Earl Ceh at North Hills in 1978. In McCurry's first game as head coach, he beat legendary Gateway coach Pete Antimarino, 7-6. The difference in the game was a missed extra point.
The final game McCurry coached was a loss to Woodland Hills in the 2012 WPIAL playoffs. In between, there were a lot of great games and memories. McCurry was known as a coach who adjusted to his personnel. During his tenure, he had offenses that ran the wishbone, the I formation and the spread.
"When you're involved in something for 40 years, pulling the trigger is tough," McCurry said of his decision to step down. "You just want to make sure you make the decision at the right time. There is probably never a right time. But to give North Hills the time to select a new coach, and to get the players in the weight room, I had to make a decision now. I've really been debating it since the season ended."
Pat Carey was a member of the 1987 team and has been a North Hills assistant since 1995. He is considered the leading candidate to replace McCurry.
"I can say playing for him and coaching alongside of him, he was just a fierce competitor," Carey said. "Beyond that, his ability to prepare for opponents was second to none."
McCurry is a retired school principal who was involved in some great games over the years. When asked what he might have done different as coach, McCurry said: "Maybe get that 2-point conversion so that we would've beaten Gateway in 1986 [WPIAL championship game]. But we tried to do things the right way. We put kids first and education first."
When asked how he would like to be remembered, McCurry said: "How I'm remembered is anyone's interpretation. Some people liked me and some didn't. But that's just the nature of coaching at any level. But I think just to be remembered is probably the biggest thing."
First Published January 22, 2013 12:00 am