STAMFORD — He has provided support and guidance to hundreds of athletes and students over the decades.
On Thursday night, Stamford High School’s Jim Moriarty will be the one receiving the accolades for his tireless work.
Moriarty will be inducted into the FCIAC Hall of Fame at the league’s annual banquet at the Norwalk Inn. Joining Moriarty in the 2019 class of the FCIAC Hall of Fame are Darien High School Girls Lacrosse coach Lisa Lindley, Wilton/Staples Boys Lacrosse coach Paul McNulty, former Greenwich High coach and athletic director Garland Allen, Danbury High School baseball coach Shaun Ratchford and official/cross country coach Steve Benko of New Canaan.
Former Westhill coach and girls gymnastics pioneer, the late Ro Carlucci, will receive the FCIAC’s John Kuczo Award. John Keogh will receive the FCIAC’s Ralph King Award.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the culmination of a long association with the FCIAC,” Moriarty said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of help from a lot of people over a lot of years.”
Moriarty was a traditional three-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball) at Stamford Catholic High School and a 1970 Crusaders’ graduate. He was a wide receiver/defensive back/reserve QB in football. An outfielder in baseball and a forward in basketball.
“Basketball was the sport I loved. At age 12-13, I was good at basketball,” Moriarty recalled. “I fell in love with the old New York Knicks teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They played basketball the way the game was supposed to be played. And I loved John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics.”
Moriarty played college basketball (1973, 1974) at Southern Connecticut State University.
“I got injured one year so I graduated with eligibility. I had to find work so I became a substitute teacher at Stamford High School. Herm Alswanger wanted me to be his assistant coach,” Moriarty said. “I was 21, 22-years old. I was nearly the same age as the players.”
It became the opportunity of a lifetime.
“My coaching philosophy came from all the great coaches of Stamford,” Moriarty said. “Mickey Lione Jr., Sharkey Laureno. My freshman basketball coach at Stamford Catholic, Len Rivers. Former Rippowam High hoop coach Phil Ragozzino. I took a bit from all of them. But Herm (Alswanger) had the greatest direct effect. Herm was a great coach and a great human being. He helped more people than anyone I’ve ever known.”
After McMahon edged Stamford, 68-66 in the 1977 Class LL final, the Stamford High School boys basketball head coaching job passed from Alswanger to Moriarty. It would stay with him until Moriarty became Stamford’s athletic director in 2012.
“From 1927 to 2012, Stamford High School had just four boys basketball head coaches. Paul Kuczo, Williard Kemp, Herm Alswanger and myself,” said Moriarty, who taught history and social studies at Cloonan Middle School for 15 years before moving his history books to his present teacher’s room at Stamford High. “That’s a long time.”
Over his 33-season tenure, Moriarty’s Black Knights teams earned 445 victories. Stamford High was FCIAC runnerup five times including losing to Westhill in 1988-89 and falling to Trinity Catholic in 2002-03.
Moriarty, who is the current FCIAC boys basketball chairman, got the Gatorade bath after Stamford nipped Trinity Catholic in double overtime for the 2008-09 FCIAC championship.
Stamford also won the 1992 Class LL championship, topping Harding, 71-70 in the final.
“I was 7-7 my first year as head coach. I thought I knew everything. The next year, I was 6-14 with a more talented roster. I was humbled,” Moriarty said. “Being head coach seemed so much easier when I was sitting next to Herm (Alswanger). Now I was the one making the final decisions. It took a while to realize exactly what it takes to have coaching success.
“I learned you have to have patience. You have to listen. You have to have a year-round commitment to the kids,” Moriarty continued. “The kids at Stamford High go through so much. Getting to school on time each day is a victory due to things in their personal lives.”
Moriarty was aided by a host of great assistant coaches, including Dave Guinta, Ed Kelsey, current boys basketball assistant James Jordan, former girls basketball head coach and girls assistant Curtis Tinnen during his tenure.
Former assistants Dan Melzer and Zach Smith became the next two Stamford boys basketball coaches after Moriarty took over as athletic director. Melzer moved on to New Canaan High School. The Rams captured the 2019 Division IV state title, 55-39 over Granby Memorial.
Like former Black Knights baseball coach and current guidance counselor Bob Augustyn, Moriarty has become part of the historical fabric of Stamford High.
As a history teacher, Moriarty remembers the first basketball game (Stamford Catholic vs. Stamford High) ever played in Paul Kuczo Gym. He recalls when Stamford was the only public high school in the city. He understands how Paul Kuczo and John Kuczo built the foundation of the FCIAC while at Stamford High. He knows what special athletes Bobby Valentine and Calvin Murphy were in their high school days.
But Jim Moriarty’s favorite place to teach was on the basketball court.
“Coaching is teaching. And I enjoyed coaching,” Moriarty said. “Putting the game plan together. Teaching the plan to the kids. Implementing it in the game. Adjusting on the fly. Every team was a family to me.”