LORETTO – St. Francis men’s basketball alumnus (1959) and Hall of Famer Father Jack O’Malley (2011) passed away peacefully on Friday at the age of 83.
Ken Horoho, a friend and alumnus of St. Francis, recalled first learning of O’Malley when Horoho was working on a speech on the 1958 men’s basketball team his senior year. While writing his speech, Horoho learned of the time at the 1958 Carousel Tournament that the hotel refused to let the African American student-athletes stay there.
O’Malley insisted the whole team stay in the same place so they all slept in the Winstin-Salem airport that weekend.
“Jack was one of the most effective point guards to ever play at St. Francis,” said Horoho. “The reason is that the important work as a point guard of handing out assists and setting into motion the appropriate offense was done off the court during his years as a priest and community activist. He became legendary in the Pittsburgh area for his dedication and outstanding work for the less fortunate and the working men and women in the western Pennsylvania area.
“He absolutely loved St. Francis and the coaches and the players that played with him and after him. It’s tough to say goodbye to a good friend.”
O’Malley, a three-year member of the men’s basketball program (1956-59), played in the 1958 National Invitational Tournament, the most-recent NIT appearance until the 2018-19 season. SFU amassed a 52-22 (.703) record during O’Malley’s tenure, including back-to-back 20-win seasons.
He led the squad in field goal percentage his first year on the team, shooting 91 of 224 (.458) from the field, and wrapped up his career as the team captain in 1958-59.
Although the official assist stats can’t be confirmed from his era, O’Malley led the Red Flash in assists all three seasons in Loretto, and concluded his career with 791 points (11 ppg) and 422 rebounds (5.9 rpg). O’Malley helped St. Francis win the Carousel Tournament in 1958, and earlier in the season hit a pair of free throws with no time remaining to help SFU defeat in-state rival Duquesne, 65-64. It was a win that helped St. Francis get into the NIT.
O’Malley remains the only student in St. Francis history to receive the Mr. Frankie Award, be inducted into the Hall of Fame (2011) and be named a distinguished alumnus (1993).
The Mr. Frankie Award is given annually to an outstanding senior male student.
Following his graduation, O’Malley received an offer to play for the Detroit Pistons but chose to go to the seminary instead. O’Malley is presumed to be the only St. Francis men’s basketball player to become a priest, entering the priesthood in 1965 after attending St. Vincent seminary.
Beyond St. Francis and the priesthood, O’Malley was known for his activism for social justice and helping those around him. He served as the labor chaplain to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and Allegheny County Labor Council, was a part of a National Council of Churches movement in the 1970s, traveled to Nicaragua to attend “Witness for Peace,” founded the Labor and Religion Coalition of Western Pennsylvania and the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, to name a few. His efforts were noticed as he received a key to Pittsburgh in 2018.
O'Malley is survived by five siblings, Patricia Paolini, Thomas O'Malley (SFU '62), Mary Jane Diamantopolus, Margaret O'Malley and Mark O'Malley, all of Pittsburgh. Fr. O'Malley is preceded in death by his brother, Patrick O'Malley (SFU '57). Visitation will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday and mass on Thursday.