Jack Devine, 82, Villanova basketball star, coach

Posted: June 19, 2014

JACK DEVINE WAS a legendary basketball player at Villanova University and later a winning coach, but as far as the folks in Sea Isle City, N.J., are concerned, he was just a great guy.

After his death Sunday, his son Jack Jr. was in a pharmacy in Sea Isle when the pharmacist gave him a big hug and told him how much his father had meant to him.

At another point, his mother's dentist was sobbing on the phone.

"He touched everybody," Jack Jr. said of his dad. "He cared deeply about people. His personal accomplishments didn't mean anything to him. He just wanted to make everyone's day a little better."

Jack Devine, who had suffered from a number of ailments in recent years, died after a stroke. He was 82.

Jack might have minimized his own sports accomplishments, but they meant a lot to Villanova, which recently devoted its website to him.

"Jack Devine was one of only 59 athletes in Villanova basketball history who scored 1,000 or more points for the school between 1951 and 1955," the school wrote. "That distinction was made even more special by the 1,181 rebounds he collected at the school, placing him among just five Wildcats to ever score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds."

At 6 feet 4, Jack, a product of West Catholic High School for Boys, was the center and captain.

He averaged 11.2 points per game for a total of 1,263 and ranks 39th on Villanova's all-time list.

He was an assistant basketball coach at Villanova and coached at West Catholic High, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Cherry Hill High School West.

"Jack Devine was an outstanding player and coach at a time when Villanova basketball grew to become a nationally prominent program," current head basketball coach Jay Wright said. "He was always very supportive of our team and staff. The Nova Nation has lost a great gentleman."

Jack, who was in ROTC in college, went on active duty with the Navy for two years, serving as an air-traffic controller at the naval base at Norfolk, Va.

After the Navy, Jack returned to West Catholic to coach basketball. His team became the Catholic League champions in 1959.

The team included Jim Lynam, who became head basketball coach at St. Joseph's University and coach and general manager of the 76ers, and Herb Magee, current head basketball coach at Philadelphia University.

After three years at West Catholic, Jack returned to Villanova as assistant to head basketball coach Jack Kraft. In addition, he was head coach of the freshman squad, where he mentored Bill Melchionni, who went on to play for the 76ers.

After several years, Jack left to become head basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J.

He coached there for six years, then became the guidance counselor and basketball coach at Cherry Hill West in 1974. He coached until 1980, and retired as guidance counselor in 2001.

When he retired, Jack said it was so he could have the time to watch his son Jack Jr. play basketball for Ursinus College. He might have said it humorously, but it was just like Jack to put family ahead of his own career.

John F. Devine was born in Philadelphia to Patrick and Rose Devine. His father owned a bar in West Philadelphia.

His brother Robert played basketball for West Catholic and for Notre Dame University. His brother Daniel played for St. Thomas More High School, then became a priest.

Jack was married to the former Fran M. Fitzgibbon.

In retirement, Jack enjoyed playing golf, but mostly hanging out with his grandchildren in Sea Isle City.

"He was the most unselfish person I ever knew," Jack Jr. said. "He changed people's lives."

Besides his wife, son and brothers, Jack is survived by a daughter, Mary Cay Cousart; another son, Vincent M. Devine; and nine grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph's Church, 43rd Street and Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City. Friends may call at 9 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to West Catholic High School, 4501 Chestnut St., Philadelphia 19139; or Villanova University, 800 E. Lancaster Ave., Villanova, PA 19085.

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