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Berwick's Curry working as hard as he always has
October 11, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT
Cos Curry knew the effort was fruitless. His dad, George, has coached high school football for far too long to think that even now, after 40 years, he could ask his dad to change his ways.
He could ask Pennsylvania's winningest high school football coach to dial it back from the 16-hour work days he was known for before retiring in 2008, but what's the point? You know the old saying about tigers and their stripes? Yeah, that's George Curry in a nutshell.
So when George was considering coming out of retirement in June to return to the sidelines at Berwick, his son Cos, now the Superintendent of the Bloomsburg Area School District, made his point to his father quite succinct.
“I said I'd rather have a father than a football coach,” Cos said Wednesday. “I was concerned for him. Even though you can advise him to dial it back, you know he probably won't.”
Even George's wife Jackie wasn't thrilled with the idea of him coming back. She watched his health deteriorate in his final years coaching at Wyoming Valley West where he would get dizzy on the sideline and even passed out twice. But here he is, once again the head coach of the high school program he guided to six PIAA championships and three USA Today national championships. And tonight, for the first time since Oct. 17, 2008, George Curry will be on the sidelines coaching against Williamsport when the Millionaires travel to Crispin Field.
George Curry would have been happy had he never returned to the sidelines. He was loving his life since retiring with 413 career wins following the 2008 season. He was staying in touch with the game as a color analyst on 930 AM WHLM in Bloomsburg, calling their high school football game of the week. He was working with WNEP-TV appearing on weekly high school football shows. He was still running his quarterback camp in the summer, and even working as a consultant for teams throughout Districts 2 and 4, helping whenever coaches had questions for him.
He was done. He was content. There was no more losing sleep over tough losses. He was 50 pounds lighter than he was when he was coaching at Wyoming Valley West. He was off the blood pressure medication he started taking after retiring.
“I was a media guy,” George Curry said. “I loved it. There was no more pressure.”
But when news broke in June that head coach Gary Campbell was resigning to return to Waconah Regional High School in Massachusetts, the assistant coaches on Campbell’s staff — who were also assistants under Curry — said they would be leaving, too, unless Curry decided to take the head coaching job. Curry discussed the potential of coaching with his family and scheduled a physical with his doctor to make sure he was healthy enough to return.
“They all (assistant coaches) wanted me to do it, so what am I going to say? No?” Curry said. “I said if you really want an old man, I’ll do it.”
And like that, he was back. No more summer traveling for he and Jackie. In fact, he told her when he was approved as head coach by the school board that he’d see her again at Christmas. It was back to 16 and 18-hour days. He had to produce a new offensive and defensive system to teach to a relatively young team.
He didn’t even have playbooks. He had given his defensive playbook to friends of his who were coaches figuring he’d never be on he sidelines again. The 16-hour days weren’t as much out of habit as they were out of necessity.
He had a season to prepare for with a team he hadn’t seen much of. About the only thing he knew about the team he inherited was that his grandson, C.J., was going to be a junior and was a quarterback.
Besides, 16-hour days were natural to Curry. It’s how he built Berwick into one of the most successful teams in Pennsylvania and the country. It’s how he built a dynasty that won four consecutive Class AAA championships from 1994-97.
Remember the saying about Tigers and changing their stripes? Curry’s stripes are 16-hour days. Only now he’s better prepared to handle them having taken care of his health since he retired from Wyoming Valley West four years ago.
“The first day I got into it, it was like I never left,” George Curry said. “It was like a whirlwind, like a tsunami hit. It controls your life. I’m into it and the days go by fast.”
Cos sees the same coach who led the teams he played on in the mid-1980s. He sees a fiery man who likes to run around at practice and jump right into drills. He sees the same coach who’s not afraid to get into the faces of his players when things don’t go how he likes.
You see, George is a disciplinarian. He believes in discipline in football, in school work and in life. He’s been able to instill that discipline into a team whose players were in elementary school the last time Curry led the Bulldogs.
Cos knows that discipline well. He lived through it in the mid-80s. George said the way he treated his son while he played at Berwick was “rotten”. But there was a purpose behind it, and even Cos understood it. George wanted to make sure he was giving no easy rides to a starting fullback who also happened to be his son.
For as hard as he may have been on Cos, George always knew how to separate football from life. Football didn’t come home with the two. And Cos sees the same situation in the way George handles his grandson, C.J., who is the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. He’s not afraid to voice his displeasure and make his grandson run extra during practice. But football stays at Crispin Field.
“Out there, he’s just another kid,” George said. “But he always came to the house on Wednesdays for supper. He walks in now and I turn it off. I’m not coach Curry anymore, I’m your Pop-pop. Sit down and relax because we’re not talking football. I’m not the same guy you saw being a raving maniac on the sideline. He gets to see the meek and mild old man side. He appreciates that.”
“I think with C.J., he tells him what he needs to do and shows him,” said Cos Curry, who is a volunteer assistant coach for his dad. “But I see a patience in him that comes with understanding the students. I often joke with (C.J.) that he let you get away with what? We’d be running for some of the things he lets them get away with. He’s intense, but he’s patient with the kids.”
George has found the beauty in coaching in this team just looking up and down the roster of 68 players. The beauty of coaching this team was never more evident than when his grandson C.J. threw two touchdown passes last week against Tunkhannock to wide receiver Andrew Force.
C.J.’s father Cos, and Andrew’s father, Mike, played together at Berwick in the ’80s, and also went to the Citadel together to play football. But it’s just one of dozens of similar scenarios coursing through his roster.
His return to coaching has been almost a family reunion of sorts. George Curry estimates he’s coached the fathers of at least half his roster. Maybe it’s why his ways of instilling discipline isn’t lost on his players. Maybe it’s why players who’ve never known him as their coach are readily buying into his system to become the top Class AAA team in District 2.
That and because you either follow his way or you don’t play football at Berwick.
“You’re not going to change an old guy. I coach the way I always do,” George Curry said. “My ways are going to be difficult and it’s not for everybody. Either go to war with us and buy into it, or not. It’s not for the meek. But their fathers warned them about me. The fathers are glad to know there’s discipline and they appreciate it. I know the fathers would love it if I kicked their kids in the hind end. But it’s unbelievable seeing these kids because you can see their dads in them. That’s the fun part of coaching these kids.”
George Curry emphasized his newest turn as Berwick’s head coach is on just an interim basis. He knows people would like him to coach for two years, but he says it’s all based on his health. He said he’ll evaluate how he’s feeling at the end of each season and decide if he wants to come back for another year.
He also makes sure to point out that he would have come back to coaching had his grandson not been the team’s quarterback. But of course, a situation like that made it easier for Jackie to accept his return to coaching.
“I think she tolerates it because it’s a family thing,” George said.
He’s not sure how long he’ll be coaching. He never thought he’d be back in coaching. His 413 career wins seemed to be the number that would be forever etched in record books.
He’s at 418 career wins now — and counting.
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