This all might have started when Walt Munze posted this old photo from the first All-American Lacrosse Camp on Facebook. From left to right, seven Upstate NY lacrosse icons… Walt Munze, Joe Corcoran, Roy Simmons, Richie Moran, Bill Wormuth, Jack Emmer, and Tom Hall. I’ve heard it was taken in 1970.
I was mesmerized by that photo. I decided to reach out to Coach Hall and ask about “the good old days.” He was very thorough and his stories and memories helped me write my January 4 RTD blog (http://www.justlacrosse.com/21archives/blogs/witmer_lookbacktomhall.htm)
I knew, however, that I would have to give equal time to other people, other high school programs, and certainly other parts of Upstate. No offense, but I wasn’t as interested in Coaches Emmer, Moran, or Simmons; I wanted to hear more about people we’re less familiar with, and especially the origins or early days of high school lacrosse in these parts.
Coach Hall gave me contact information for Mike Simon, Section V Boys’ Lacrosse Chairman. In turn, Mike gave me contact information for Ed Greenway from Williamsville East; Mark Rice from Penfield and now St. John Fisher; John Johnson from Canandaigua and Fisher; Paul Wilson from Pittsford and the SportsFive.net website; and Terry Corcoran from Corning, Hobart, Skidmore, and now McQuaid.
A day after I reached out to those coaches, Coach Corcoran emailed me information about his father’s Hall of Fame achievements and further contact information for Jack McDonald, from Geneva, Hobart, Eisenhower, and Skidmore…
Whoa. What had I gotten myself into?
Since Coach Corcoran sent me pages of info about his father Joe, who passed away in 1997, and since Coach Corcoran and I have crossed paths many times over the past few decades, I decided to start with stories of his Dad, Geneva High School’s earliest days of lacrosse, and the legacy Joe Corcoran left at Corning and most everywhere else he hung his hat.
I think I first met Terry Corcoran (Hobart ‘78) when I was working at the Hobart Lacrosse Camp, maybe around the early-‘90s or so. He was the head coach at Washington College back then, the program that probably (and ironically) lost more national championship games to Hobart than any other college (until Nazareth established themselves, the upper echelon of D-III was Hobart, Washington College, Ohio Wesleyan, and Gettysburg – coached by another Hobart alum Hank Janczyk ‘76). A large percentage of the staff at the Hobart Camp would meet in Bristol Gym in the evenings to play basketball, and I would sit and watch former Hobart stars like Corc, Jeff Tambroni, Dan Whelan, Bobby Wynne, Jacques Monte, Bill Bergan, Matt Kerwick, and Frank Fedorjaka go up and down the court playing some pretty intense hoops. Cork might have been one of the oldest guys on the floor, but there was no mistaking his intensity or drive.
Then I’d see him again at the Top 205 Camp down at Loyola College in Baltimore, and I remember him inviting the Lakers down to Chestertown, MD to play the following spring. He was such a good pitchman that I accepted his offer, and we made regular stops down on the Eastern Shore the next four or five years...
Except Terry wasn’t on the Shoremen sideline. Soon after we committed to going down for a game, Coach Corcoran left to take over at the University of Pennsylvania. A few years later, we crossed paths again, as he came north to coach at Skidmore. Next thing I knew, I was working on the staff of the short-lived but most-treasured Lake Placid Lacrosse Camp, run by George Leveille, Cork, and Jim Townsend of RPI. Terry’s sons were about the ages of my sons, and for two or three summers, we had some unforgettable weeks of camp at the Northwood School.
I had always heard of Terry’s Dad, but never had the pleasure of meeting him. When I watched people greet Cork, they always made respectful comments about his Dad, and I knew even back then that I had missed out on something special. So when Coach Corcoran replied to a shotgun email aimed in many directions, I was pleased to finally learn a little something about his father.
Terry sent me the text to his Dad’s induction to the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 1986, and I learned immediately why Joe Corcoran was so revered... I’ll try to put his story into my own words, but I couldn’t have done this without the pages of information I received from Cork.
Joe Corcoran grew up in Geneva, NY and played four years of varsity lacrosse for head coach Jim Loman between 1937 and 1941, winning an Upstate championship in 1940 (let that
sink in a minute).
Joe served in the US Marines in the Pacific from 1942-1945, and won a boxing championship during that time. When he returned home from the war, he attended Ithaca College from 1946-1950, where he not only started
the lacrosse program, but played and
coached there as well – in addition to being named all-everything and
captain of the football team! Oh yeah – he also played box lacrosse in the North American League during those years as well (yeah, let that all sink in a bit, too).
After the war, the Geneva box lacrosse team, comprised of many WWII vets, regularly played against Canadian and Native American teams. In 1947, they defeated the Mann Cup champions from St. Kitts in a 19-18 overtime thriller, and Joe was joined by his brother Jim on the Geneva Armory floor. In 1949, Joe was the first non-native American to play in the Canadian Box Lacrosse League. Amazing…
In 1952, Joe was hired at his alma mater to teach physical ed and coach football and track. In 1957, he succeeded in re-starting the lacrosse program, holding practices after track practices were done. Jack McDonald, who went on to teach at Geneva HS for 33 years, played for Coach Corcoran that year and graduated from Geneva HS in 1960 and then went on to play lacrosse at Hobart; he, in turn, went on to coach at both the high school (Geneva) and college (Hobart, Eisenhower College, and Skidmore) levels.
Jack McDonald remembers… “I was a freshman that year and was too young to play varsity football, but they let me play lacrosse because they needed bodies. We got old equipment handed down from Hobart, and there were a few 6 AM Saturday morning practices where we might have hopped a fence or two to practice on Hobart’s fields. It was a fun time.”
However, that summer (1957), Coach Corcoran was hired by Corning Free Academy, where he taught PE and coached football, wrestling, and track and field. With no experience competing in wrestling or track, his teams were nonetheless among the best in the area; his wrestling team went undefeated for four years.
“He was part of ‘The Greatest Generation’; those guys just did whatever needed to be done,” his son Terry added.
It wasn’t until 1967 that Joe was able to start a lacrosse program at Corning; in fact, he started two
programs that year. That was the year the Corning school district made the move to split into two schools, East and West. Joe was told he could start lacrosse but only if he organized both teams; when he took over the East program, he hired Bill Ferris to get things going at West.
Success came to Coach Corcoran’s East program immediately. John Topichak was an attackman in East’s first season and he became the first Trojan to earn All-American honors in college (Hobart ’71 – he was actually a three-time A-A and played in the North/South Game in 1971). Coach Corcoran’s teams won league championships in ’68 and ’69, regional championships in ’71, ’72, and ’73, and Sectional championships in ’75, ’77, ’79, ’80, and ’81. Over the span of his 15-year varsity career at East, he went 206-36.
He coached his four sons (Terry, Joe, Jr., Shawn, and Chris) and he coached the likes of Jim Darcangelo, who played in four
FIL World Championships for the US. Other notable standouts include Mark Darcangelo, Larry Grimaldi, and Tom Grimaldi. In his 15 seasons at Corning East, Joe Corcoran coached at least 14 players who went on to earn USILA All-American honors as many as 30 times!
When Coach Corcoran retired from both teaching and coaching in 1981, Bob Streeten was hired away from West Genesee to take over the program, and the Trojans continued to be one of the top-ranked high school programs in all of New York. Streeten coached for 31 seasons, winning a state championship in 1990.
Joe Corcoran earned Coach of the Year honors seven times, including an award from the US Lacrosse Coaches’ Association as Upstate Coach of the Year – in 1970, just four years after starting the program! He was inducted into six different Halls of Fame: Ithaca College
(1978), Corning-Painted Post Sports HOF
(1981), US Lacrosse National HOF
(1986), US Lacrosse Upstate Chapter HOF
(1990), and the Geneva Sports HOF
(1992), and the US Lacrosse Greater Rochester Chapter HOF
Joe Corcoran passed away in 1997. In 2000, Corning celebrated the top 100 people whose lives made an impact on the Corning community between 1900 to 2000. Coach Corcoran came in at somewhere around #15
“He beat out Mark Twain by one or two spots,” said Terry.
Many thanks to both Terry Corcoran and Jack McDonald for sharing their stories and providing details found in this article. I couldn’t have done it without you!
Thanks for reading! Right now the plan is to reach out and learn more about the early days – and some of the early pioneers – of Upstate high school lacrosse. If you think you can help, I’d love to hear from you!
Oops! Forgot to answer the January 4 question…
What was the first Upstate team to win a NYSPHSAA state championship?
Henninger HS (Syracuse) won the state title in 1980. Long Island teams won the first three state titles from ’77-’79, Henninger won in 1980, and then West Genesee won the next three – ’81-’83 – and again in ’85 and ’87.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:
Geneva HS played its first varsity lacrosse game in the spring of 1922. Who was their opponent?
Until next week – drive carefully, stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind!
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of two books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.