Obituary of John "Cy" James Szakacsi
Columbia—John James (Cy) Szakacsi, legendary multi-sports coach at four Columbia area high schools for more than two generations, died Friday, November 8, 2019 at age 96.
A native of Ohio, he enrolled at the University of South Carolina after service in World War II and earned six letters in basketball and baseball before launching a coaching career to treasure.
He guided teams to state championships in four sports, earned National High School Boys’ Coach of the Year in 1986, received the Order of the Palmetto in 2018, was honored by governors and legislators, and was inducted into two halls of fame.
Born December 7, 1922 in Congo, Ohio, he was the son of the late Rudolph and Rosi Encsi Szakacsi. He is survived by his niece and sports’ buddy Peggy Lawrence (Joe), his special great-nephew Michael Chandler (Nathalia), his nearly 4 year old great-great nephew Michael A Chandler who was the love of his life, great-niece Monica Chandler, daughter Sandy Black, nephews Cecil Chandler (Debra), Mike Chandler (Tracy), Robbie Hammond (Ann), great-nephew Jeff Chandler (Lynn), great-nieces Tara Sessions (Jesse), Haley Hammer (Virgil) and Erica Hammond, grandson Patrick Rodden. He is also survived by his best friend and brother-in-law Bobby Hammond (Annette). He was predeceased by his wife Mildred of 37 years, brothers Rudolph and Louis Szakacsi and sister-in-law Ivy Hood and step-son Rick Rodden (Kat).
Szakacsi starred in football, basketball and baseball at Harding High in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and played freshman football at Ohio University before being drafted into the U.S. Army and serving four years during World War II.
Following his military service, he received a scholarship to the University of South Carolina. He played football, baseball and basketball for the Gamecocks, lettering three times in both baseball and basketball. On the diamond, he batted .330 his senior year; in basketball, he played guard and scored 525 points in 89 games.
After graduation in 1951, his hall-of-fame coaching career began at University High, a school located on the USC campus. He made an immediate impact, guiding the Bantams to the City Basketball Championship in 1951. He coached basketball at University from 1951 until the school closed in 1966 and his teams forged a 268-54 record. The Bantams won three state championships, three City titles and nine regional championships.
Szakacsi moved to A.C. Flora 1967-79 with his basketball teams posting a 227-105 record. The Falcons won the 1969 state championship. In addition, he coached Flora’s state championship golf team in 1974.
At Heathwood Hall 1980-88, his teams won state football, basketball and baseball championships in his first year. He added his 500th and 600th basketball victories during his stint at Heathwood Hall, where his basketball teams compiled a 110-67 record.
Cy moved to Cardinal Newman High in 1988 to head the baseball program, and his first team added to his collection of state championships.
He retired from coaching in 1999 at age 76. His basketball teams (University, Flora and Heathwood) had a combined record of 605-266 and his baseball teams (University, Heathwood and Cardinal Newman) had a 206-97 record. He is one of the few coaches to guide teams to state titles in four different sports.
Along the way, he coached all-star games, was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Coaches’ Hall of Fame, was named teacher of the year at University High (1956) and A.C. Flora (1974), officiated high school softball, baseball and basketball games for 35 years, instructed at Frank McGuire’s basketball camps and coached the American Legion Post 6 baseball team.
In recognition of his achievements, Gov. Carroll Campbell declared Feb. 2, 1988 as “Cy Szakacsi Day” in South Carolina. On Feb. 17, 2018, he received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor that recognizes lifetime achievement and service to South Carolina. State representative Beth Bernstein made the presentation on behalf of Gov. Henry McMaster.
We would like to thank Jim Joye for his friendship and the many meals he brought to him over the years while he still lived at home.
Memorials can be made to Cardinal Newman High School, 2945 Alpine Rd. Columbia, SC. 29223.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
Thompson Funeral Home at Greenlawn Memorial Park is assisting the family.
Family and friends may sign the online guest book at www.thompsonsfuneral.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John "Cy" Szakacsi, please visit Tribute Store