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Former Teaneck basketball coach Curtis March remembered as a father figure

The Record, Bergen County logo The Record, Bergen County 1/21/2021 Paul Schwartz, NorthJersey.com
Gerald Cleaver holding a microphone: In 2016, coach Curtis March is congratulated as Teaneck High School formally dedicated its basketball court in his name. © Viorel Florescu/NorthJersey.com In 2016, coach Curtis March is congratulated as Teaneck High School formally dedicated its basketball court in his name.

If your first look at Curtis March was in a tight basketball game, you might have been intimidated. Here's this 6-foot-7 man screaming at his team, looking like he wanted to go after someone.

But his players knew better. So did Jeff Jasper and John Santulli, two coaches who know what intensity means. And especially so did Karen Wynn.

"I knew him my entire life,'' said the former Teaneck basketball star who later coached the team. "He was my neighbor. In the third grade he put a ball in my hand and told me to go down to the park and show those boys what I could do. He was like a father to me.''

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March, a Teaneck legend, died Sunday at his daughter's home in Mine Hill. He had suffered from several illnesses in recent years and had moved back from his retirement home in Charlotte, North Carolina in October to live with his daughter Dani'ele Borden and her family.

March was a Hall of Fame coach at Teaneck, winning nearly 600 games and 34 major titles (including the 1998 and 2003 Group 4 state championships) in his 28 years coaching girls (11 years) and boys (17 years) before retiring in 2010.

He had been a great player at St. Augustine's University in Raleigh, North Carolina and is in the St. Augustine, Teaneck and New Jersey Coaches Halls of Fame. The basketball court at Teaneck was named in his honor in 2016.

But March was much much more than a great basketball coach.

"He became a father to me,'' said former player Kiela Brevard, who is now the assistant dean and head of security at Paterson Charter School, and a prominent member of the AAU basketball community. "He came into my life at the end of my freshman year in high school when family issues forced me to transfer to Teaneck. He showed me what a community was like.''

"Every Sunday we'd go to a teammate's house and watch film and eat a meal and he would motivate us,'' said Brevard, who graduated in 2003. "He coached us and taught us  U.S. history and African-American history in school and looked after us. We would talk all the time after I graduated and he got me into coaching. Yesterday (Sunday) was a very rough day for me. I got the news while I was driving and I had to pull over for a long time to get myself together.''

"I loved him from the beginning,'' said Jasper, whose Pascack Valley girls teams battled Teaneck in many big games from 1980 to 1991 before March took over the boys program. "He was tough and disciplined and was such a strong personality within the black community in Teaneck. He was a role model on how to treat people with dignity and respect.''

a man standing in a room: Curtis March, pictured during a 2010 game. © NorthJersey.com file photo Curtis March, pictured during a 2010 game.

"He had no ego and he never got insulted,'' said Santulli, who had recruited Teaneck players as a college coach and then joined March in 1998 as an assistant when he left college coaching and began teaching at Teaneck. "if you watched him as a coach, you'd think he was domineering but he was so soft spoken and effective away from the gym. He knew that you sell your program by being part of the community and I took that with me when I got my own program.''

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"He was a gentle giant,'' said Wynn, who says March was like a grandfather to her own 13-year-old daughter. "When he started me in biddy basketball in the third grade, we eventually got to the national championships in New Orleans with a core of about 10 kids. When we graduated from Teaneck in 1987, eight of us were still playing for Teaneck. We were family.''

"I thank him for turning young girls into women and young boys into men and all the things he did for us on and off the court,'' Wynn said. "He's in our heart forever.''

"He was the best father, brother, son and grandfather ever created,'' Borden said.

In addition to Dani'ele, her husband, Dwight Borden, and her daughter, Gianna, March is survived by son, Jason, his wife Aneleen and their son, Leif.

The family will see visitors at the Community Baptist Church, 224 1st St. in Englewood from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. March will be buried in private services in South Carolina.

To continue his legacy, his family asks that donations be sent to: The Curtis Leon March Memorial Scholarship Fund, Division of University Advancement, St. Augustine's University, 1315 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27610.

Paul Schwartz covers high school track and field for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.

Email: schwartzp@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @northnjtrack 

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Former Teaneck basketball coach Curtis March remembered as a father figure

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