Legendary St. Francis Prep basketball coach dies

St. Francis Prep boys basketball coach Tim Leary died of cancer last week.
Photo by Laura Amato
By Gina Martinez

Legendary St. Francis Prep Basketball coach Tim Leary, 73, died last week after battling gallbladder cancer.

The New York State Basketball Hall of Fame inductee had an impressive coaching career with a record breaking 646 victories in 43 seasons. Leary retired in February 2016 after the passing of his wife Claudia, who died following a battle with cancer.

Leary coached varsity baseball coach at St. Francis Prep for 10 seasons, winning five borough titles and a city championship. His team won the CHSAA state Class A championship in 1992 and reached the AA final in 1997.

As a player for St. Francis Prep he led the team to the city title, only to lose to a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led Power Memorial team in 1963. He then went on to play baseball and basketball at Manhattan College.

Leary followed up his sports career as an educator, spending 30 years as a teacher and dean in multiple schools in the city.

Upon his retirement from St. Francis Prep in 2016, many gathered at his final game to celebrate his storied career. The school is mourning his loss. Athletic Director Sal Fischetti said he will never be forgotten and his legacy will live on.

“Tim Leary coached 49 years at St. Francis Prep, 43 as the boys varsity basketball coach,” he said. “He had such a profound impact on so many for so many years. Widely considered as one of the best high school coaches in NYC history. Nobody got a team ready to play better than he did. May he rest in peace.”

Leary is survived by four children, seven grandchildren and three brothers.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

More from Around New York