Dave Curtin was the 4th head football coach at Brearley, a 1976 Brearley Regional graduate

PHOTO BY STEVEN ELLMORE - Dave Curtin was a successful football coach here at Columbia and he also coached at his high school alma mater - Brearley Regional.
PHOTO BY STEVEN ELLMORE – Dave Curtin was a successful football coach here at Columbia and he also coached at his high school alma mater – Brearley Regional.

Dave Curtin, who made his mark in Union and Essex counties as a football and track and field coach and also as an athletic director, passed away Aug. 10 after a battle with cancer and heart failure.
Curtin, who had just turned 58, grew up in Kenilworth and graduated from Kenilworth’s Brearley Regional High School in 1976.
He played football at Brearley, was an assistant coach at Brearley and then became the head coach in 2000.
Here is what I wrote in 2000 about Curtin becoming Brearley’s fourth head football coach and the program’s second since Brearley reopened in the fall of 1997:
Who says you can’t go home again!
And home again it is for Kenilworth’s Dave Curtin.
A 1976 Brearley Regional graduate, Curtin has landed his dream high school coaching job. He is the fourth Brearley head coach, succeeding Mike Londino, who served for the first three seasons after Brearley reopened in 1997.
Nelson Gibble (1967-1973 for seven seasons) and Bob Taylor (1974-1992 for 19 seasons) were Brearley’s first two head football coaches. Londino, a former Taylor assistant, was the head coach for three seasons from 1997-1999.
“Following the footsteps of Mike (Londino) and Bob (Taylor) goes without saying,” Curtin, 42 at the time, said. “Bob has always been helpful and I learned a lot about line play from Mike and he’s always been extremely helpful.”
Curtin played at Brearley as a freshman under coach Londino in the fall of 1972, a time when Gibble was the head coach. Curtin, a Kean College graduate, also played on the junior varsity team as a sophomore in 1973, which was the last season Gibble was the varsity coach.
Taylor coached the Bears to an impressive 123-54-7 (.695) mark during his 19-season tenure (1974-1992), a journey that included fourth North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 state championship games.
Curtin was an assistant at Brearley for nine seasons from 1984-1992, including N2, G1 state championship teams in 1985, 1986 and 1991 and a N2, G1 state finalist in 1988.
Curtin then landed his first head coaching position at Wardlaw-Hartridge and guided the private school located in North Edison for five seasons from 1994-1998.
Curtin’s 22-32 record included Prep B state championships in 1996 (8-1) and 1997 (7-2). His only loss in 1996 was to North Warren and his only losses in 1997 were to Riverdale Country Day School and St. Joseph’s, Hammonton.
After going 0-9 his first season there in 1994, the team improved to 4-4 in 1995. The 1998 squad finished 3-6.
Curtin then laded the Millburn job last season (in 1999), his first head coaching position at a public school. It was a rough year to say the least as the Millers finished 0-10.
“I read a book about Lou Holtz and he said that when he coached at Minnesota, he had a clause that allowed him to go after the Notre Dame job if it opened up,” Curtin said. “He always wanted to coach at Notre Dame, just the way that I always wanted to be the coach at Brearley some day.”
Millburn has not attained a great deal of success in football in recent years and is not the easiest of coaching positions. Former Union assistant Carmen Guarino, who last year was an assistant at Bridgewater, takes over the reigns this year, his first job as a head coach.
“The parents were very supportive at Millburn and it was difficult,” Curtin said. “But when the Brearley job opened it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

The Bears went 7-3 and made the playoffs in North 2, Group 1 in 1997 (losing at Butler 14-7 in the semifinals during the last year only four teams qualified in each section), 4-6 in 1998 and 5-5 in 1999 under Londino.
During Curtin’s two non-playoff seasons at the helm of the Brearley Bears, Brearley went 4-6 in 2000 and 5-5 in 2001. His record was 1-1 in consolation games.
Richie Sporer, Brearley class of 2002, was Curtin’s starting quarterback both seasons.
Scott Miller succeeded Curtin as Brearley’s head coach in 2002. The 1987 Brearley Regional graduate has guided the Bears to a 101-46-1 (.687) record the past 14 seasons, including 10 winning seasons, one .500 (5-5) campaign, 11 playoff seasons and a playoff record of 9-10 that includes a 1-2 mark in state championship games (0-1 in CJ, G1 and 1-1 in N2, G1). Miller is also the first of five Union County head coaches that have led their teams to 12-0 state championship seasons.
In addition to growing up in Union County, Curtin also coached track and field and was the athletic director at Roselle Catholic High School in Roselle.
“I knew Dave Curtin when he coached and taught at Roselle Catholic back in the early-mid 1980s,” said present RC Assistant Principal-Student Affairs Joe Skrec.
Skrec is a 1984 RC graduate who is also presently the girls’ basketball coach there after also serving as the school’s athletic director.
“I worked with Dave when I coached at RC and when I became athletic director,” Skrec said.
As a reporter for The News Tribune in Woodbridge, Skrec also covered Curtin when he was the head football coach at Wardlaw-Hartridge.
“I succeeded Gabi Bunk as AD at Roselle Catholic,” Skrec said. “Dave was AD for a time (before Bunk) and he was very helpful to me when I started working at Roselle Catholic.
“Whatever Dave did he did with tremendous passion. He was a passionate coach, passionate teacher, passionate administrator, passionate friend, passionate about his faith and incredibly passionate about his family.”
Skrec knew Curtin for some time and seemed to always come away with a positive influence from the former coach and sports director.
“I knew Dave Curtin for 30 years and he maintained an enthusiasm for sports and for wanting to teach and coach, to make student-athletes better and reach goals that they probably didn’t think they could attain,” Skrec said. “I saw him inspire student-athletes on and off the track at Roselle Catholic and then watched and covered him motivating high school football players and teams to successful seasons.
“Looking through Roselle Catholic yearbooks it’s nearly impossible to find a photo of Dave without him smiling – and the people around him – students, teachers, coaches, anybody – smiling, too. Dave Curtin made you smile and made you laugh.”
Curtin was also a passionate New York Mets and New York Jets fan.
“I can fondly recall, like it was yesterday, listening to Dave in his locker room office talking and ranting about the New York Jets like the fanatic he was. He bled green. The Jets were his team, going back to when he went to games at Shea Stadium.
“Dave always had a couple of books with him or on his desk in the office at Roselle Catholic. Books were usually about football or about successful football coaches, men like Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden, who were successful coaches and tremendous motivators also known for being good family men with a strong faith.”
Here’s a quote from Bob Taylor: “‘Red’ got it. He understood what really mattered. The teams he coached at Brearley became our most outstanding, at Brearley and ALJ (Johnson Regional).”
Curtin was also the head football coach at Columbia as well as the athletic director at the Maplewood and South Orange Group 4 school at the time.
Curtin came to Columbia in 2003 as the athletic director, succeeding longtime athletic director Bob Curcio, who retired.
While he remained the athletic director, Curtin took over as the head coach of the varsity football team in 2007.
The Cougars went winless in his first year. In second season in 2008, the Cougars defeated winless Dickinson of Jersey City 48-0 in the season-finale to snap a 45-game losing streak dating back to the 2004 campaign.
The next two seasons simply were glorious for the Cougars as they won back-to-back Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division titles and qualified for the playoffs in North 2, Group 4 both seasons. The previous time the Cougars made the playoffs was in 1982.
The Cougars finished 8-2 in 2009, losing to Westfield in the first round.
The following season, the Cougars went undefeated in the regular season and finished 9-1, with the lone loss coming against Bridgewater-Raritan in the first round of the playoffs.
Curtin missed the 2011 season due to health reasons. He returned to the sidelines in 2012, but stepped down as athletic director. Larry Bushichio stepped down as the Columbia baseball head coach to take over as athletic director and has been in that role since.
Following the 2013 season, Curtin stepped down as football coach, but remained as a physical education teacher at Columbia.
Prior to coming to Columbia, Curtin was the head football coach at Wardlaw-Hartridge, Brearley, Millburn and Marlboro for a combined nine seasons. He was an assistant football coach at Brearley for nine seasons and Johnson in Clark for one season. Curtin also coached track and field at Roselle Catholic, Brearley and Governor Livingston in Berkeley Heights for a combined 22 seasons.
Curtin was the athletic director at Roselle Catholic from 1993-1995.
Curtin is survived by his wife, Nadine; daughter, Noelle; sons, Joshua and Matthew; two granchildren, Jasper and Isla; and mother, Catherine. He was predeceased by his father David J. and brother, Michael.
Jerry Auriemma, the former CHS Athletic Hall of Fame President who was close friends with Curtin, recalled Curtin’s unwavering devotion to athletics in the South Orange and Maplewood community.
“He is the only athletic director that I saw who helped the kids before they got to Columbia High School,” Auriemma said. “I ran the Maplewood-South Orange recreation wrestling club. He gave us all of Columbia High School one Sunday for the Essex County Tournament, which was 27 teams, and he gave me the whole school. He would come to the football games for the kids. He would come to baseball games. He would let the kids play on the field. In fact, my son’s 8th-grade team was the first team to play on the new field (at Underhill Field) before the varsity football games.
“He was that type of guy. He cared about the kids, he really did. When they got to Columbia, they knew who he was. That was the secret to his magic. By the time he came to Columbia, they knew him, so that they can stop by his office. It made a difference because in 10 years he was the athletic director. I think they had more championships, all time, than ever before in every sport. That was his magic. He was one of a kind.”
In a September 2003 article in the Maplewood and South Orange News-Record about his hiring as athletic director, Curtin expressed his commitment to helping students achieve a positive experience.
“Everything I do, I want to make sure it’s in the best interests of the kids,” Curtin said in the article. “I want the kids to walk out of here to say that they had a positive experience in athletics as well as academically.”
Viewing was held Sunday, Aug. 14 at Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, located at 582 Springfield Ave. in Westfield.
A Celebration of his Life was held Monday, Aug. 15 at Kenilworth Gospel Chapel, located at 557 Newark Ave. in Kenilworth.
Essex County sports editor Joe Ragozzino contributed to this story.

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