By Joseph Staszewski
New York City lost a coaching legend.
St. Francis Prep football coach Vince O’Connor died Saturday morning at his daughter’s home in Floral Park at the age of 85, according to school athletic director Sal Fischetti.
O’Connor just completed his 62nd season coaching at the school and his 61st as varsity coach. He won 341 games during his career, good enough for second place in New York state behind the 364 by Howie Vogts of Bethpage
“It’s awful,” Fischetti said. “This is the death of a legend here. You losea guy like Jack Curran. You lose a guy like Vinny O’Connor, forget it”
O’Connor had gradually turned over the coaching reins to assistant head coach Rich Carroll in recent years. Carroll said O’Connor, a Park Slope resident, finally started cutting back last season. He made all the games and about 90 percent of practice, after rarely missing any. O’Connor’s health had declined in the last two weeks, according to Fischetti. The news
of his passing hit the St. Francis Prep community and football family hard as it spread Saturday morning.
“I think one of the things that makes this a big issue is that he’s been there so long, nobody thought he’d not be there,” Carroll said.
O’Connor began coaching when St. Francis Prep was on North 6th street in Brooklyn and was one of the founders of the Catholic High School Football League. He won a record 16 CHSFL titles, including 14 at the highest classification. He has coached nine pros, four Walter Camp All-Americans and coaches like former Jets and Giants offensive coordinator Dan Henning, Rutgers head man Kyle Flood, C.W. Post head coach Bryan Collins and retired Chaminade coach Bill Basile. St. Francis Prep’s multi-million dollar training center is named after him.
“He’s a tremendous coach and a tremendous man,” Holy Cross football coach Tom Pugh said. He did so much for so many people. One of the class guys.”
O’Connor is survived by his wife Mary, his son Martin, daughter Mary Rose and four grandchildren. His wake will be held in the St. Francis Prep auditorium on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. each day. The funeral wil be at the school on Thursday, February 19 at 10:30 am.