Into the history books: Boston College to retire Bill Curley’s jersey

Emerson men’s basketball head coach Bill Curley will see his jersey ascend into the rafters of Conte Forum at Boston College on Sunday—25 years after finishing his college basketball career as a power forward.

Curley’s No. 15 jersey will join just six other numbers hanging in the rafters, forever etched into the lore of Boston College’s athletics history.

Martin Jarmond, Boston College athletics director since 2017, said Curley brought a winning culture and positive energy to the team.

“You look at the impact that Bill Curley had on his team and how he propelled Boston College to heights we hadn’t been,” Jarmond said in a phone interview. “He was an excellent player and an even better teammate. I just felt it was time to recognize him in a permanent way for all he did for Boston College athletics.”

Curley said his teammates all deserve credit for their incredible run in the 1990s.

“We all did so much together and we are part of that. It’s a great honor and I tried to make my teammates better, but they made me better,” Curley said. “It’s nice that they’re recognizing us as a group. I am lucky enough that they’re putting me up there to represent them, but we had a tremendous group.”

Curley considered playing at multiple college basketball powerhouse programs such as the Duke Blue Devils, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and North Carolina Tar Heels. Instead, he opted to remain in Boston and play for Boston College head coach Jim O’Brien in 1990. Curley said the prospect of playing in front of his friends and family in a competitive conference convinced him to stay local.

Jarmond said Curley represented the state of Massachusetts while he played for Boston College.

“There was a level of pride that he carried with him. You can’t underestimate the impact of having a local guy stay home and excel and that’s what he did,” Jarmond said. “You got to look at his contributions in a myriad of ways—the performance, the leadership, the sustained success he had, but also him being from Massachusetts and what he meant to the community.”  

Before Curley enrolled at Boston College, the men’s basketball team struggled, with just one winning season in four years under O’Brien’s tenure. Though Curley’s freshman year resulted in another losing season, the team’s fortunes swiftly turned around the following season.

Curley said the biggest challenge he faced while at Boston College was learning to adapt to the competitiveness of collegiate level basketball.

“Four of us freshman started that year in 1991, and we grew up,” Curley said. “We were thrown into the fire and we took a beating in our first year. You’re learning the hard way. You had to learn how to win, how to practice, how to prepare.”

After consecutive winning seasons in 1992 and 1993, Boston College broke onto the national stage in the 1994 National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. Just before that tournament, however, the Eagles took a devastating 81-58 defeat against the Georgetown Hoyas in the Big East Tournament. Curley said the loss raised doubts over the legitimacy of the team’s ability to play competitively.

Despite the loss, Boston College began a spectacular run through the NCAA Tournament as the ninth seed. Curley’s 25-point performance led the Eagles past eighth-seeded Washington State Cougars 67-64 in the first round. In the second round, they shocked defending champions North Carolina Tar Heels 75-72 before eliminating fifth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers 77-68 in the Sweet Sixteen.

After defeating the Hoosiers, Boston College advanced into the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight to face the third-seeded Florida Gators. Despite 20 points and seven rebounds from Curley, Boston College lost 74-66, which ended Curley’s senior season.

Curley said the team represented the Big East and the college well by defeating multiple powerhouse basketball programs in the tournament.

“It was a good run. To have such a down Big East tournament but to then go and be able to knock out the number one team in the country, the defending champs, and Indiana and [Indiana head coach] Bobby Knight,” Curley said. “We stood up, represented the Big East and [Boston College] very well, and had a great run.”

After he graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Curley spent seven years in the National Basketball Association with five different teams—the Pistons, Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks, and Warriors—but played in just 147 games with an average of 2.7 points per game. He sat out of two full seasons because of injuries and left the NBA after the 2000-2001 season.

After his playing career, Curley said he found the need to keep improving and moving forward.

“That’s the great thing about sports, you learn so much,” Curley said. “The biggest thing is that you have to keep plugging away because nothing is given to you. You have to learn from your experience and try to be better the next day. You don’t worry about it, you don’t live in the past—you just live in the present and keep making yourself better.”

Curley was officially inducted into Boston College’s Hall of Fame in 2006. Five years later, he reunited with O’Brien to coach the Emerson men’s basketball team. Curley inherited the head coach position upon O’Brien’s retirement in 2014.

Jarmond said he is excited to have Curley and his former teammates back in Boston for the jersey retirement ceremony.

“I’m happy for Bill and I’m happy for his teammates,” Jarmond said. “He doesn’t want to take any of the credit because he’s the kind of guy to give a lot of credit to his team and his coaches. It’s been really neat for me to see everybody around him really be able to talk about him because he’s such a selfless guy and it’s just nice that he’s here and we’re getting a majority of his teammates to come back for the ceremony.”

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