April 19, 2016
Moiseichik influenced so many
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Former Cortland High football coach John Moiseichik watches the game against Phoenix in 2013 on the field named after him. Moiseichik passed away this past weekend.
John “Jack” Moiseichik was much more than just the most successful coach in the history of the Cortland High football program.
It’s obvious that Moiseichik, who passed away early Saturday morning at Groton Nursing Home at the age of 95, had influence on his players and students that extended far beyond the playing field.
“He was human and understood kids,” said Moiseichik’s son Dyke, who lives in Bella Vista, Arkansas. “He came from the other side of the tracks himself. He was tough but fair. As a father, he provided my sister Khette (who passed away in 2003) and me the discipline and support we needed.”
A Cortland native, Moiseichik coached football at Cortland High from 1947 to 1966, compiling a gridiron record of 108-41-7, with five undefeated teams and another that tied one game and didn’t lose any as well as a 27-game winning streak that ended in 1960. The man commonly known as “Mush” also taught physical education and after leaving the coaching ranks was athletic director until 1977.
A Cortland native, Moiseichik graduated from CHS in 1938 and stood out as both an end on the football team and a guard on the basketball team. He went on to play both sports at Hobart for one year, under the name Johnny Mack, his son noted, because of a stigma against foreign players that existed at the time.
He enrolled at SUNY Cortland in 1940 and again stood out in both sports. After a three-year tour of duty in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he returned to the college and was honored in 1946, his senior year, with the Red Letter Award as the MVP of the basketball team.
His son noted that while working to earn his Master’s degree at Syracuse University, Moiseichik played professional basketball as a member of the Syracuse Nationals, whose roster also included John Gee, another local standout. He was honored as the Central New York Football Coach of the year by his peers in 1963, is a member of the Section 4 Hall of Fame and was honored as a 100-game winner by the New York State Football Coaches’ Association. He worked with the Cortland Youth Bureau after leaving CHS, and at age 84, while living in Hector, volunteered as a coach with the Mynderse Academy junior varsity football team.
“I was not such a great coach, but was in the right place at the right time,” Moiseichik told former Cortland Standard sports editor Jere Dexter in 1977 for a story honoring his retirement. “It was like a sleeping giant; the enthusiasm was good. I could tell the players to do anything and they’d do it for me.”
The late Dick Finn, one of Moiseichik’s players, said told Dexter for that same story that “We respected him, and always felt that if ‘Mush’ told us to do something we’d run through a wall to do it.”
Mason Morenus, who was an English teacher at CHS, also coached junior high football and both JV and varsity baseball and served as athletic director from 1979 through 1998, said of Moiseichik that “He once told me that, when I got mad at a player, not to let them go home without letting them know that everything was fine. I know his players adored him and held him in the highest esteem. Sometimes he came across as gruff, but he really wasn’t, and he always had the best interests of his players at heart. The fact that the football field was named for him (prior to the 1977 season) shows the esteem that the school and community had for him.”
“He had high expectations of each of his players,” said Jerry Mahar, who played halfback and linebacker for the Purple Tigers from 1957 to 1959. “He was the epitome of tough but fair. When you screwed up he let you know, and on the other handed complimented you for a job well-done. The biggest thing was that he had the respect of the players at all times. He was man among men. When I was a senior, one of his few expressions was “Don’t think you seniors can’t be replaced.”
Brothers Ted and Pete Testa both started for Moiseichik-led teams for three years, Pete at quarterback and safety from 1955-57 and Ted as a lineman and linebacker from 1957-59.
“Some people have that little something,” Pete Testa said of Moiseichik. “We had a great group of people together, and were lucky to be able to play. If you played well, played your best, no matter how good you were, he respected that. We gave him our hearts, so to speak, and he took care of us.”
“(Moiseichik) was a great coach and a great friend all these years,” said Ted Testa, who captained the 1959 squad. “He was a very disciplined coach, and his players had a lot of respect for him. We was well-liked and respected by his players. He had a good understanding of the game of football and worked hard at it.”
Ted Testa also noted that Moiseichik produced a good number of players who continued their football careers in college.
That list is of course headed up by Gary Wood, who played for Cornell and then went on to play professionally for the Giants and Saints in the National Football League as well as the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. Among others who played collegiate football after their CHS days were John Nichols at Syracuse and, at Colgate, Dick “Conky” Lalla, Pete Testa, Chuck Perfetti and Dan Cifonelli.
Ang Trivisonno, who played guard and defensive end for the Purple Tigers in 1953 and ‘54, said that “I think (Coach Moiseichik) treated everyone fairly,” noting that he was also tough when the need arose.
Services for Moiseichik, whose wife Jean predeceased him in 2012, will be Monday at 11 a.m. at Wright Beard Funeral Home, with a reception to follow at the Cortland Elks Club. Dyke Moiseichik noted that the two events will be collectively considered as a tribute, and that all in attendance at either one will be encouraged to share a memory of or story about his father if they wish to. Coach Moiseichik’s final resting place will be the cemetery in Hector, on Seneca Lake.
Dyke Moiseichik closed by relating one of his favorite stories, concerning former player Tino Ferro. A center, Ferro was selected for a post-season all-star game and had trouble with long snapping on punts. When asked why by the coaching staff of the elite team, he replied “We never punt at Cortland.”
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