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Our History

Fairfield Prep celebrated its 75th Anniversary from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017.

During this time, we shared events, stories and anecdotes of historical significance. Here is a list of stories of note from Prep's history, compiled by dedicated alumni.

Contributing editors are: Greg Marshall '73, Sandy Sulzycki '64 and Lou Pintek '72. Much information was gathered from the Prep history "A Tradition of Excellence" written and edited by Prep teacher and historian John Szablewicz.


1969, 1997, 2015

By Lou Pintek ‘72

1969 – “Fitz, Smitty and The Bird”

Any discussion of Prep's basketball history would not be complete without acknowledging the 1968-69 team, regarded as Prep's premier squad as well as one of Connecticut's best. Under Coach Bob (The Bird) Sylvester, the team featured the school's only All-American in senior forward Jim Fitzsimmons, all-MBIAC forward Hal Smith and standout point guard Wally Halas. That season, Fitzsimmons averaged 32.5 points per game and set the school and state single game scoring record, while Smith (who passed away last year) averaged 22 points per game. They were perhaps an unparalleled 1-2 scoring punch at Prep.
The rest of the starting five consisted of late senior guard Jim Naveken and center Jim (Weed) Kroesser, who stood 6-foot-2, weighed only 160 pounds and often played against players 4-5 inches taller and many pounds heavier than he was. Senior Jim Connolly was first man off the bench. Other key contributors were seniors Scott Butterworth, Dom Serino, Mike D'Andrea, and junior Nick Tarasovic.
The Jesuits played to a packed Alumni Hall during a special three-year run in which they made three consecutive CIAC Class L finals, finally winning it all against East Catholic at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.
"The '69 team was no fluke, that's for certain," said Sylvester, who won more than 250 games during his 17-year stint on the Prep bench. "[It] built on the great successes of '66, '67 and '68. During those four years we won three league titles, holiday tournaments, and logged an overall record of 80-15. [Our] records were 15-10, 20-3, 21-2 and 23-1."
During the championship season, streamers would rain down from the stands when the starting five was introduced and it was a decisive home-court advantage.
"We packed [Alumni Hall] every night we played for three years in a row," Sylvester said in a Bridgeport Post feature in 1989 on the 20-year anniversary of the state championship. "There'll never be a bunch of kids with that much chemistry. There was no animosity, no jealousies. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Fitzsimmons, who earned a scholarship to Duke but finished his career at Harvard, was the only returning starter when the team convened in the winter of 1968.
"We were hungry after losing [in '68]. Certainly I was," Fitzsimmons said. "But the team came together over the summer. I would go to Kutsher's [Resort in upstate New York, home of the Kutsher Sports Academy, which closed in 2013], and when I got back we would play in Milford on the outdoor courts against some of the Milford High School guys and some Southern Connecticut guys who might be there. We played from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and there were some good 5-on-5 games. We really jelled as a team.
"We lost four starters from the '68 team," Fitzsimmons added. "That team had the same starting five that went to the finals two years in a row, so we had four new starters coming in, and the only one that played a lot [in '68] was Hal Smith, who was the sixth man. So "Bird" turned me loose in senior year. I had more scoring responsibilities in '69."
"Having lost in the previous two state championship games, the 1969 squad was a determined group," said Halas, who went on to play and coach at Clark University. "The team was not even predicted to win the MBIAC, but winning a state championship was the singular mission of the members."
The team started 6-0 before being upset by Harding at home, 57-55. Following that defeat, Sylvester switched from a methodical offense to an up-tempo model, and the immediate result was a five-game stretch in which the team averaged 103 points per game.

The Jesuits met finals opponent East Catholic midway through the regular season and beat them by 20 points. Fitzsimmons had a triple-double in that game, setting a school record with 41 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and handing out 10 assists. But the Milford native's tour de force came in the penultimate game of the regular season against Law in Fairfield. The Jesuits, needing a victory to nail down the top seed in the CIAC tournament, demolished the Lawmen 138-67 as Fitzsimmons broke ex-Norwalk High and NBA Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy's single game scoring record with 64 points (NOTE: The 3-point goal was not in existence during that era).
"I had 25 points at halftime and "Bird" decided to keep me in for the second half," he said. "I came out with three or four minutes left."
Prep finished the season 19-1 and then won four games in the playoffs to be crowned champions. However, Fitzsimmons acknowledged that the semifinal against now-defunct South Catholic of Hartford was the most stressful game of the season.
"[South Catholic was] up on us by 10 at the half and we actually thought we might lose," he said. "They played slowdown and had a box-and-1 defense on me. But "Bird" gave probably his most inspirational halftime talk, and we came out and took the lead. I think I scored the next 12 points in the third quarter and we took it up-tempo [to win 60-53]. It was definitely the scariest moment of the year."

In the finals against East Catholic, Prep never trailed but nonetheless had a difficult time putting away the Eagles.

"We only won by 10 points because [East Catholic] slowed down the tempo," said Fitzsimmons, who scored 20 points and was named finals MVP. "We jumped on them right away, but they wouldn't go up-tempo on us. They didn't want to get blown out. We were up the whole way. It was great to finally get it over with. It was very gratifying."
"Halas was the general out there," Sylvester said after that game. "With so many teams devising special defenses for Fitz and Smitty, we expected more of the same from East Catholic. I told Wally he would probably have to do some shooting for us early to keep [East Catholic] honest and take some of the pressure off the other two."
Halas had 17 points in that game and Smith 10.
"It was a great team. We all blended well," Naveken was quoted as saying in the 1989 Post feature. "The nice thing was we all got along well. We were in each other's wedding party. The closeness we had on that team carried over into our later years. By winning that state championship, we learned how to win later in life."
"Anybody who saw us would have to agree that we would be highly competitive today," Smith was also quoted as saying in the article. "We felt it was our destiny to win."
"The true challenge was working with young men from area/regional towns who played together as grammar school kids and met for the first time at Prep," Sylvester said. "Their intelligence and passion for excellence made coaching them a distinct privilege."

1969 State Champs: (23-1)
Regular season results (15-1 MBIAC, 19-1 overall): Beat Northwest Catholic* 96-69; beat Milford 74-73; beat Stratford 78-43; beat Central 102-74; beat Staples** 94-70; beat Lee** 97-87; lost to Harding 57-55; beat Bunnell 116-69; beat Law 123-76; beat Notre Dame (Bpt.) 92-65; beat Bassick 94-50; beat Stratford 90-63; beat East Catholic* 82-62; beat Central 85-53; beat Milford 84-61; beat Harding 92-68; beat Bunnell 106-59; beat Notre Dame (Bpt.) 79-65; beat Law 138-67; beat Bassick 116-79
*--non-conference game; **--Staples Christmas tournament games (non-conference)
CIAC tournament results (4-0): Beat Southington 102-64; beat Harding 84-58; beat South Catholic 60-53; beat East Catholic 61-51

Notable: State champion, ranking No. 1 in New England, and averaging 95 points per game, Jim Fitzsimmons was a national All-American. He won a third straight MBIAC title, started 6-0 before suffering only loss, 57-55 to Harding, after which the team went on a five-game scoring spree in which it averaged 103 ppg and avenged their only loss with a 92-68 victory at Harding as Fitzsimmons scored 33 and Smith 29. Fitzsimmons set school and then-state record with 64 points in 138-67 rout of Law, breaking ex-Norwalk High All-American Calvin Murphy's mark of 62. Hal Smith added 41 in that game as they finished the season 19-1, then beat Southington (102-64) and Harding (84-58, as Fitzsimmons had 43) before defeating South Catholic in the semifinals, coming from behind for a 60-53 win. They beat defending champion East Catholic 61-51 in Class L title game. It was Prep's third straight appearance in finals; they lost to East Catholic in 1968 and Sacred Heart (Waterbury) in 1967. Fitzsimmons was named MVP with 20-point performance in finals. Fellow co-captain and all-MBIAC choice Smith had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the title game, while point guard Wally Halas had 17 points, 10 in the third quarter. Fitzsimmons also scored 10 points in the third quarter as Prep stretched its lead from 27-21 at halftime then to 47-37 after three. Prep led by six with 46 seconds left, but Jim Connolly scored on a layup and Halas added two free throws to seal it. Sylvester took over the coaching duties for the '61-'62 season and won more than 250 games in 17 seasons. He was inducted to New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Jim Fitzsimmons ('69)
Jim Fitzsimmons is the only player in Prep history to be named high school All-American. He holds the school record for career points with 1,732. He set the school and since surpassed the state single game scoring record with 64 points vs. Law. Averaging 32.5 ppg., he was named New England Player of the Year. Jim made third straight all-MBIAC first team and second consecutiver all-state first team while playing in Dapper Dan Roundball Classic for high school All-Americans. He received a scholarship to Duke and was the leading scorer for the freshman team (20 ppg.) while battling a sore back (freshmen were not allowed to play on varsity then). Fitzsimmons transfered to Harvard, where he played two seasons and made all-Ivy his sophomore year. ... Is still the school's single season scoring leader (24.2 ppg. in 1971-72) and career leader in points per game (18.5 from 1971-73). He was inducted to New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and now resides in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife and two children. Fitzsimmons currently works as the Carolinas' Regional Developer for Massage Envy.
Candidly speaking: "We had a lot of unknowns for '69. ‘Weed’ [Jim Kroesser, the center at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds] had raw talent, but we were sort of short up front at the time. We started off playing Prep basketball, very methodical. We were 6-0, but the big turning point was the [first] Harding game (played at home). We lost by two; Harding's center was basket-hanging and he made a shot with two seconds left. We went ballistic after that, going from a methodical team to an up-tempo one. We scored a lot of points [averaging 103 points the next five games] and the starters were playing half a game at that point."
On his 64-point game: "[That] game, there was a little history there. The game had originally been snowed out and we needed that game to get the top seed in the [CIAC] tournament. [Law] didn't want to play, figuring [it was] going to lose anyway, but we insisted they come and play. I had 25 points at halftime and [coach Sylvester] decided to keep me in for the second half. I came out with three or four minutes left. That was funny. They were trying to get me the [Prep] record and I was telling Hal to give me the ball and he said, "'The heck with you, I'm trying to break my own record.'" [Smith finished with a personal high of 41]. So as soon as I [got] to 64, they took me out, so it was somewhat intentional, I guess. We beat everyone by so much, most of the time we only played a half."

Wally Halas ('69)
Wally Hala was the starting guard and was selected to second team all-MBIAC. He received scholarship offers from several schools but selected Whitman scholarship from Clark University. Halas played and started for four years, earning All-New England honors and winning Bob Cousy Award as a senior. He now works as Vice President for University Advancement at Fairfield University, responsible for all of alumni and fundraising activities. He and his wife Patrice reside in White Plains, N.Y., and have 4 children, Mike, John, Jaclyn and Matthew, and one granddaughter, Monroe.
Candidly speaking: "Under the brilliant guidance of coach Bob Sylvester, the team leveraged [its] collective determination and underdog status. Coach Sylvester recognized and utilized the team’s talents, which were a blend of quickness, toughness and self-confidence. The team scoring records were not solely the products of the phenomenal scoring abilities of Fitzsimmons and Smith. Coach Sylvester developed and deployed a variety of full court presses that resulted in many steals and conversion to easy baskets. Prep’s pressing defense, team rebounding and smart floor play were the extra ingredients needed to complement Fitz and Smitty. Each member knew his unique role, and excelled at it. It mattered not who was scoring points; scoring margin (an incredible 29 ppg.) was the only statistic that the team valued."

1997 – “The Improbable Dream”

If the 1969 team had an air of invincibility about it (as well as unparalleled talent), the 1997 squad was diametrically opposite in that were no expectations of a league championship, much less a state title. Rather, the team was one of grit and perseverance which combined with a confluence of events resulted in a most improbable victory in the Class LL final.
"Most coaches will tell you that the hardest thing to do as a program is to win on a regular basis when you haven't done so in the past," Coach Tim Owen said. "Our program was struggling to create a consistently winning program. While we always had good kids who were committed, we just never had the talent or depth necessary to maintain a lot of success playing a super tough schedule of largely [Class] LL teams in the SCC."

"In the '90s, Prep was not the basketball powerhouse it is today," said 6-foot-6 tri-captain and all-state senior center Dan Flaherty, who scored 27 points with 12 rebounds and was named Finals MVP. "We were known for hockey state championships and a strong football team. There were no expectations for our team that year and we remained largely unknown as the season began. The SCC was newly formed and the FCIAC was considered the premier basketball league in the state. We were a strong group of seniors and juniors that had been playing together for a long time since we were all from Fairfield."
But a key component of the team was a seasoned 6-foot-2 sharpshooter who transferred in from the Philadelphia area in junior Dan Pangrazio. Pangrazio had been teammates with a prodigy named Kobe Bryant, but he brought a quiet confidence to an experienced core group.
"I've been on many teams in my life in sports and outside of sports, and that group of young men and our coaches were part of something very special," said Pangrazio, now an educator in California. "We became greater than the sum of our parts. Other teams might have had more talent, but none had so many parts that fit well together, and none had so much heart."
Flaherty and Pangrazio were joined in the starting lineup by seniors Bob Mpuku and Nick Bilotta, and junior Ian Walsh. "Going into the year, we had a talented team by Prep standards but I don't think anyone thought we could contend for a state title," said Walsh, a forward. "Pangrazio transferring in that year gave us a great three-point shooter, and Flaherty and Mpuku could play, but I think we were expecting maybe 12-14 wins. Good by Prep basketball standards, but nothing special."
Owen said he knew right away that he had a special group of players and the talent began to evolve as the season progressed. "We were getting a lot of contributions from different kids," Owen said. "Our skill level was excellent. Our passing, ball handling and shooting ability were real strengths. Pretty quickly we established an identity of a team that was very tough to play in the half court. We really executed our offensive sets, including hard screens and precise cuts and we always found the open man. Our primary defense was a tough half-court man-to-man. We neutralized more athletic teams with this focus on half-court play." 
"We had a very impressive win in our opening game against Notre Dame of Fairfield," Mpuku said. "We must have won by 30 points, and one of my good friends was so impressed he told me after the game that [we were] going to win the state championship. Of course, I brushed that off as it was only the first game of the season. Fast forward four months later to the end-of-the-season banquet and we are watching the video documentary of the season. You can distinctly hear that same friend yell out during the post-championship trophy ceremony, 'What did I tell you, Bob!'"

"As the year went on, we all started to jell and bought in to coach's motto that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (I think he termed it "the fist was stronger than the five fingers")," Walsh added. "He was a great coach, tough at times when he needed to be, but aside from Xs and Os taught us that talent is only half the game; if you do your job, check your ego at the door, and outwork the opponent, it can overcome any talent mismatch. That rang true the whole year -- we played unselfish, disciplined basketball, where everyone knew their roles and stuck to them: Flaherty and Pangrazio were the scorers, Mpuku the distributor and guys like myself, Bilotta and the bench players were the 'glue guys' and would do the dirty work (rebounds, screens, tip-ins, etc.). We didn't stray from that too often."
Prep finished the regular season 17-3 and earned the No. 2 seed for the SCC tournament. "Everyone knew and understood their role on the team," Bilotta said. "There were no egos, no drama, just work. We pushed each other. We took care of one another. We were a team." However, Amity threw an unexpected haymaker in the SCC tournament by upsetting the Jesuits in overtime the first round. That loss served as an immediate wake-up call. "We took a few days off to clear our heads and lick our wounds before getting back in the gym," Owen recalled. "As I look back on it, maybe [that] loss awakened us from a little slumber and refocused us." Once the CIAC tournament began, Prep was indeed refocused. The Jesuits disposed of Hamden, Rockville, Windsor and Hartford Public before meeting Norwalk in the title game.
Of the four, the quarterfinal game against Windsor might have been the most inspiring victory in that the Jesuits rallied from 18 points down to earn the win. "[It was a] rainy, sleeting night at a neutral court in Meriden. Very few fans [came] due to the distance and the weather," Owen said. "Windsor was a tough athletic opponent with a lot of state tourney experience. Things looked bleak as we [got] down 18 in the first half. But we [didn't] panic and gradually we chipped away at their lead with great offensive execution and shooting. We tied it at halftime in an incredible second-quarter shooting display. We continued our great offensive play in the second half and won going away. It was just incredible. It was after [that] game that I believed it really set in for all of us -- we had a fighting chance to win the [Class] LL tourney!"
"{Windsor] had a much more talented team on paper," Walsh said. "They had a guy, Keyon Smith, [who] ended up playing at Hartford who was dominating us out of the gate. I think we were down 25-7 or something. We called a timeout and we had the classic "deer in the headlights" look like, 'It's been a good run, but we may be in over our heads here.' Coach just laughed and said, "Where else would you rather be right now? This is fun! Let's get back to basics and take it one basket at a time." And the game just turned on a dime and we just started getting in our groove -- executing, hustling, and chipping away. We ended up tied at halftime and actually won going away." In the final, the Jesuits trailed by four points at the half, but a big third quarter gave Prep a five-point advantage heading into the final quarter.
"In the fourth quarter, Norwalk pressed us relentlessly and eventually fouled us in an effort to disrupt our offensive rhythm. It did not work," Owen said. "Mpuku and Bilotta handled the pressure flawlessly. Flaherty was scoring big basket after big basket and Ian Walsh had 10 key points." Prep held on for a 66-60 victory.
"We found a way to win – a lot," Bilotta said. "I attribute this mentality to Coach Owen. He instilled in us a no-nonsense work ethic and winning attitude. Daily, he grew in us intangible attributes I try to instill in my three children today. He knew when to push us, and knew when let us be high school kids trying to figure out where our lives would take us. He was a mentor, coach, and exceptional role model."
"Winning the 1997 Class LL basketball state championship was a tremendous accomplishment for this great group of kids," Owen said. "This was the culmination of a lot of hard work and the overcoming of a lot of odds. We rarely were the most athletic team on the court. We didn’t have the winning pedigree of many of our opponents. Heck, we didn’t have a player who could dunk! However, what we did have was ultimately more important. We had a lot of determination and grit. We had a commitment to playing the game the ‘right’ way. Simply, we defended, we executed and we shared the ball. Together, we were greater than the sum of our parts.”
"It was an honor to coach this team. I will always be proud of the kids for their accomplishment."

1997 State Champs: (22-4)

Regular season results (14-2 SCC, 17-3 overall): Beat Notre Dame-Fairfield* 85-38; lost to Stratford* 48-46; beat Trumbull** 68-66; beat Fairfield** 68-58; beat Wilbur Cross 59-39; lost to Xavier 81-60; beat West Haven 52-50; beat East Haven 87-65; beat Shelton 75-56; beat Hamden 70-54; beat Hand 48-36; beat Notre Dame-West Haven 77-46; beat Xavier 79-69 (2 OT); beat North Haven 79-64; beat West Haven 67-60; beat Branford 65-47; beat Hamden 73-66; beat Wilbur Cross 77-60; lost to Notre Dame-West Haven 66-65; beat Cheshire 54-49
*--non-conference game; **--Christmas Classic tournament games (non-conference)
SCC tournament results (0-1): Lost to Amity 65-63 (OT)
CIAC tournament results (5-0): Beat Hamden 61-53; beat Southington 53-35; beat Windsor 71-52; beat Hartford Public 59-53; beat Norwalk 66-60
Notable: Unexpected run to the title after losing to Amity in SCC playoffs... Beat Norwalk 66-60 in Class LL final...Defeated Hamden, Southington, Windsor and Hartford Public on the way to finals... Best regular season win might have been against Xavier (ranked No. 2 at the time), a double OT victory (79-69). Dan Flaherty, Bob Mpuku, Nick Bilotta, Ian Walsh and Dan Pangrazio were the starters with key reserve seniors such as Evan Caliento and Mike Brennan; reserve juniors such as Todd Maloney, Dennis Kokenos and Brian Schnurr.

Coach Tim Owen
Candidly speaking: "The pieces of our roster fit together nicely. Our starting five were able to play at their natural positions and we had enough depth and versatility to offset foul trouble. Senior point guard Bob Mpuku was an excellent and classy pass-first point guard who initiated our offense, always found the open man and scored when needed. His ball handling was outstanding, which contributed to our opponent's inability to press us. Regardless of the situation, I always felt comfortable with the ball in Bob's hands. ... Pangrazio was a big addition to our returning group from the prior year. He was a catch-and-shoot guard with great distance on his jump shot and brought a winning attitude to the team. ... Lefty senior guard Nick Bilotta brought a lot of intangibles and versatility; tough, strong and crafty, Nick could beat you in a lot of ways. He would hit a big shot, shut you down on defense or run the offense on occasion. ... Junior power forward Ian Walsh won the starting job in the preseason and provided valuable defense and rebounding to the team. He saved his best game for the state championship. ... After much frustration his junior year due to his nagging foot injury, Flaherty really blossomed his senior year. A very skilled big man at 6'6", Danny could really score around the rim but he would also step out and shoot threes, which made him incredibly difficult to defend. He would beat his man up the court for easy buckets and was relentless on the glass. His stats in the state championship game speak volumes about his abilities -- 27 points and 12 rebounds. ... Juniors Todd Maloney and Dennis Kokenos and senior Mike Brennan played prominent roles off the bench. Todd was a versatile guard who could play several positions. Mike and Dennis were big men who made significant contributions at the forward and center positions. In addition, speedy senior Evan Caliento and junior Brian Schnurr made contributions off the bench as well. ... Not only was this group talented on the basketball court, but they were well rounded in many different ways and all of them were good students. Many of the kids played multiple sports at Prep and achieved a high level of success on those other teams. Incredibly, I believe eight players from the team went on to play a sport in college -- a couple at the Division I level."

Dan Flaherty ('97)
Tri-captain Dan Flaherty was SCC MVP, Class LL Final MVP and first team Class LL all-state. He played four seasons at Tufts with Bob Mpuku and they were co-captains junior and senior seasons. Flaherty won the Northeast ECAC championship junior year and is now living in Atlanta with his wife and two children (one on the way in July). He works for FIG Partners, a national investment banking firm, along with his brother (and fellow Prep alum) Brian.
Candidly speaking: "We brought the best out in each other. None of us were outstanding players on our own but together we took down some very strong state programs that were stacked with D1 players. We embraced an attitude that the sum of our parts was better than individual tally. Without a doubt, winning the state championship was the highlight of my athletic career and a moment that will forever define my adolescence. On the eve of our state semifinal game, Coach Owen wrote "Fairfield Prep -- 1997 Class LL State Champs!" on our locker room chalkboard. It should still be there."

Bob Mpuku ('97)
Tri-captain Bob Mpuku was second team all-SCC and played four seasons at Tufts University and was a co-captain with Flaherty his junior and senior years. He now works in finance for a money manager and is married with three boys: Mason (5), Ben (3) and Will (3 months). They reside in Fairfield.
Candidly speaking: "Being part of the '97 state championship team was truly a special experience. There have been many times over the past 20 years I have thought about that incredible journey I was very fortunate to be a part of. There are so many moments from that year that I still remember vividly today. I was recently having a parent-teaching moment with my 5-year-old son, Mason. We were playing a game of nerf 1-on-1 basketball at our house, and Daddy was winning. It was still early in the game but Mason was not dealing with losing well, and wanted to give up. I needed to jump in and encourage him to not give up, and let him know if you keep playing anything can happen. Mason went to his first Fairfield Prep basketball game this year and has become totally enthralled with the Prep team. So I told him the story of when Daddy was on the team and we were losing the quarterfinal state tournament game to Windsor High School, [which] was definitely one of the favorites to win the state championship that year. We were down 25-7 in the second quarter and Windsor had just scored [its] 25th point with an emphatic dunk. If I had to be totally honest, the thought of, 'Well, that was good run' must have snuck into my head. Coach Owen called timeout, regrouped the team and possession by possession we came back. No one lost [his] nerve, and just chipped away at their lead, tying the game at halftime. In the second half, we dominated and won the game going away. That was definitely a turning point from having a good team, hoping to make some noise in the state tournament, to a team that believed they were going to win it all. There is definitely a connection from that team, the players and coaches that will always bond us together. Of course, we worked hard and at times we got tired of hearing it from the coaches, but what I will always remember from that time is how much fun we had. I wouldn't trade that time for anything. It was a really good group of kids who were dedicated, hard-working and looked out for one another. Together we were able to accomplish more than anyone could have reasonably thought. I have remained close friends with Dan Flaherty, but most of the other guys I've only seen sporadically through the years. The number of those encounters continually diminished, and now mainly it is only through a Facebook update post do we have any contact. That said, I will always have a place in my heart for those guys and that team."

Nick Bilotta ('97) 
Tri-captain Nick Bilotta attended the United States Military academy at West Point, where he played lacrosse and was team captain in 2002. He graduated in 2002 and is still on active duty, serving as a Major in the Infantry. He is currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he works for the Mission Command Training Program. Bilotta and his wife Sarah have three children.
Candidly speaking: "Up front, this is one of my fondest sports memories: winning the state championship -- especially being a significant underdog all season long. But the best part was that our institution, the Prep community (staff/faculty/administration/student body) never doubted us. I distinctly remember the Prep "bomb squad" having a significant presence at every home hockey game; a sport that we experienced continued success in year after year. The tides shifted home game after home game, and before we knew it, the "bomb squad" was rattling the stands in Alumni Hall for the first time in a long time. The support was overwhelming and I was, and still am, very appreciative of the support everyone across the above-mentioned community showed the team. I think our season was validation of the famous quote, "Hard work beats talent, when talent isn't working hard." Not to take away from the tremendous talent and effort of the teams and players we lined up against that year, but make no mistake, there were opponents that were bigger and more talented and were easy bets at many corner stores offering friendly wagers. I am grateful [Tim Owen] and the entire coaching staff were leading the charge. My teammates were like brothers -- period. Prep teaches us to be "men for others". That consistently translated onto the court daily. The unselfishness, camaraderie, and support we gave each other enabled us to find a way to win -- a lot. Twenty-two times, enough times to take home the Class LL state championship. It was a great year. I will never forget it."

Dan Pangrazio ('98) 
Dan Pangrazio attended Saint Mary's (Calif.) on a basketball scholarship. He played freshman year and sustained a ruptured disk in his back which essentially ended his career. He completed his undergraduate work in education on an academic scholarship and remained in California where he earned his Masters Degrees in Education and Educational Leadership. He has been a middle school assistant principal and an elementary school principal. Walsh is now a high school principal and starting July 1st will the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services in the Ceres (Calif.) Unified School District. He resides in Turlock, Calif., with wife Kelly and children Caden (6), Sofia (5), and Eli (19 months).
Candidly speaking: "The '97 Prep state championship team was just that, a TEAM. That's the most lasting memory for me. I've been on many teams now in my life in sports and outside of sports, and that group of young men and our coaches were part of something very special. We became greater than the sum of our parts. Other teams might have had more talent, but none had so many parts that fit well together, and none had so much heart. We believed we could win if we truly played together and utilize team play so our opponents could not key in on stopping any one player or strategy. I will never forget that experience. It taught us all what can be accomplished, as the saying goes, when no one cares who gets the credit."

Ian Walsh ('98) 

Ian Walsh went to the University of Scranton and was a reserve forward on the basketball team for four years. He works as Director of Leveraged Finance at Ally Financial, Inc. in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife and infant son.
Candidly speaking: "In 1997, Prep basketball was way down in the pecking order of sports (unlike today, where they seem to churn out [Division] 1 players and state title appearances, which still amazes me). Unlike high schools, where basketball is one of the more popular sports, the hierarchy of sports at Prep [at that time] was hockey, football, hockey again, lacrosse, hockey again, swimming, soccer, and then maybe basketball. A "successful" season was .500 and making the state tournament. Coach Owen had been there a while and had seen some really rough times (I vaguely remembering him saying they went winless one of his first years at Prep). We regularly got kicked off the Alumni Hall practice court if the Stags' or Lady Stags' practice(s) ran long. Hartford Public and Norwalk had a lot more talent on paper (both teams had multiple Division I prospects, I think), but we just kept playing the same disciplined style each game, out-executed, out-hustled, and played unselfish ball, and we ended up as state champs. ... Just a great collection of guys, and a perfect mix of talent and roles but a lot of intangibles, as well as leadership from [Owen] and seniors like Flaherty and Bilotta (who ended up playing lacrosse at West Point and I believe served multiple tours in the Middle East). A really fun year -- whether you're playing a pick-up game or on a team, or even watching the NBA, the game is so much more enjoyable when you have five guys on the same page playing unselfishly and trusting each other." 

2015 “Third Time's the Charm”

Given the circumstances and recent history of success, it wasn't a surprise that the 2014-15 Prep team won the state championship. Rather, it was more a sense of vindication and relief.

After all, the 2013-14 squad had been poised to finish off the school's first undefeated season in the Class LL final against Bridgeport Central, but after holding an 18-point lead at the half, it couldn't finish the job as Central prevailed 76-73.

So the players who returned for coach Leo Redgate in the winter of 2014 arrived with a chip on their collective shoulders. All-Stater Tom Nolan, all-SCC guard Ryan Foley, guard Rich Kelly, and forwards Patrick Harding and Joe DiGennaro comprised the starting five, with Matt Gerics first off the bench.

"We pushed the ball up the floor and averaged 75 points per game," Redgate said. "Our defense was stifling and we created a lot of opportunities off our aggressive style of play. [We] played together and with confidence.
"[We had] great guard play and great sharing of the basketball," he added. "All the guys were very focused and worked so hard. Each player had a role and each embraced it for the betterment of the team."
"When we started the season we weren't even ranked in the top 10 of the state, but by the end of the year we were state champions, and I think that says everything about our team," Kelly said.
Prep won its first 14 games before suffering a close loss to Hamden. It followed with five more victories to end a 19-1 regular season, then won two games in the SCC playoffs before being blown out by Career of New Haven in the league final.
With a clean slate for the CIAC tournament, the Jesuits posted a pair of lopsided wins over Newtown and Ludlowe, respectively. In the semifinals, they survived a tough battle against SCC rival Hillhouse, prevailing 59-57 in overtime.
"It came down to the second half and we were in the locker room down by 13 points," co-captain Foley recalled. "There were a lot of pale faces staring blankly at one another and me and [fellow] co-captain Thomas Nolan knew exactly what we had to do. We came out with this new-found motivation to let out any effort we had left.

"We [went to] overtime and that’s when I knew we had the game," Foley added. "All we needed was momentum. And that is exactly what we got and we won that game in the best fashion possible. Then it was on to Mohegan Sun for the third time in the last three years. We were on a mission. "
The Hillhouse game may have indeed been the tonic for getting over the hump as the final against Westhill was another tight contest. This time, however, the outcome was a positive one as Prep held on for a 51-50 triumph.

The Jesuits rallied from a nine-point deficit at the end of three quarters, outscoring the Vikings 16-6 over the final eight minutes. Harding led the way with 13 points, followed by Kelly with 12. Nolan also scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
"It was a close championship game leading to a final shot by Westhill at the buzzer that would’ve decided that game," Foley said. "When that shot bounced off the rim and I knew we had won and it was over, I truly didn’t know how to feel. I remember being in absolute shock. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream with joy. I just remember looking at all of my teammates and hugging each and every one of them."

Redgate best described Prep's accomplishment moments after that victory.

"These kids [had] been fighting all year," he said. "[The 2013-14 season] left a tough taste in our mouths but they really stuck together. But it [was] a fitting end for a team that has had a terrific record the last five years. They deserved it."

2015 state champs: (25-2)

Regular season results (7-1 SCC Quinnipiac, 19-1 overall): Beat Hand* 86-64; beat Shelton* 73-71; beat Fairfield Ludlowe** 71-63; beat Notre Dame-Fairfield** 79-69; beat Hillhouse 80-70; beat Notre Dame-West Haven 59-56; beat Hamden 70-62; beat Career 63-56; beat West Haven 61-44; beat Xavier 66-54; beat Hand 77-68; beat Cheshire 82-45; beat Hillhouse 62-52; beat Shelton 95-79; lost to Hamden 72-68; beat West Haven 71-53; beat Notre Dame-West Haven 69-45; beat Xavier 78-62; beat Career 84-71; beat Cheshire 82-79. 
* non-conference game; ** Holiday Festival tournament games (non conference)
SCC tournament results (2-1): Beat Notre Dame-West Haven 71-56; beat Hamden 68-51; lost to Career 81-59 (SCC final)
CIAC tournament results (4-0): Beat Newtown 80-49; beat Fairfield Ludlowe 70-48; beat Hillhouse 59-57 (OT); beat Westhill 51-50.

Notable: The team finally won after appearing in four of the last five Class LL title games and had lost to St. Joseph in 2011, Hillhouse in 2013, and Bpt. Central in 2014 (lost in Class LL semis to Hillhouse in 2012). They beat Westhill 51-50 in Class LL championship one year after blowing 18-point second half lead and bowing to Central 76-73 in 2014, lone loss in 27-1 season. Prior to the 2015-16 season, Coach Leo Redgate's teams had gone to four of the last six Class LL finals; the other two seasons his teams were eliminated in the semifinals. 

Ryan Foley ('15) 
Ryan is currently a sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering and playing basketball at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He is intending to go into the concentration of design engineering.

Candidly speaking: "The 2014-2015 basketball season was easily the most amazing team I have ever been a part of. It was a season trumped by injury and adversity. But this didn’t stop our team from succeeding. Going into the year everyone in the state thought that we would barely go .500 after losing a big time player in our 7-footer Paschal Chukwu [a two-time All-State performer who committed to Providence]. But what people underestimated was the chemistry that our team had. I had been playing with and against some of the other players on the team for a good majority of my life and we all knew each other and all of our tendencies. There have been a lot of great teams in Prep history, but I don’t think there were any as close-knit as this group. There was no losing in mind for us seniors. It was the last chance we had to win it all and we weren’t letting anything stop us. Although we lost in the championship of the SCC tournament, it was a good lesson for the team that we didn’t want to feel that way again after a loss. [In the finals] we were on a mission. This game had been the only thing on my mind for the past year after coming up short the two previous trips. There was no stopping me and my teammates from taking the hardware home. And that’s exactly what we did. There was no other team that I would have rather won a state championship with. I was with my brothers at that point in time and will forever remember the moments that I had with them. It wasn’t just about being a team and playing basketball. It was about being a family. I can easily say that I love each and every one of those kids to this day and I know that everyone on the team feels the same way. Nothing will ever relate to that season. It was one for the ages and was the ride of a lifetime. I couldn’t thank my coaches and teammates more for letting me graduate in a better way." 

Tom Nolan ('15) 
Tom is completing his sophomore year at Fairfield University, where he is a member of the Stags’ basketball team. Candidly speaking: “My four-year run as a Prep basketball player was such an incredible journey. I was part of four exceptional teams and played alongside phenomenal players. The devastating loses in ‘13 and ‘14 fueled my determination to bring a state championship back to Fairfield Prep. In 2015, [we] battled our way back to the championship game. As we celebrated on the court with our incredible student body, from the crowd emerged many of my teammates from 2013 and 2014. This was a victory for Prep.”

Rich Kelly ('15) 
Rich is currently doing a post-graduate year at Cheshire Academy. He is committed to play basketball at Quinnipiac next season.
Candidly speaking: "Our team consistently proved people wrong night in and night out and we did it with toughness and intellect. We weren't the biggest, and we weren't the fastest, but we knew how to win games, and that's what matters. I'll never forget the memories I made during the season, especially the moment that the final buzzer sounded and I realized that we had done it. It was the greatest feeling I had ever had, and when I look back on it, it feels like a dream."

EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to Chukwu, who was the state MVP in 2014, other all-state players for Prep in recent years were two-time selection Terry Tarpey (2011, 2012), Tom Nolan (2015) and Chris Cummings (1980). Michael Myers Keitt (2006, 2007), Tavonne Reid (2007, 2008) and Tim Butala (2012, 2013) were two-time All-SCC honorees.


The Early Years


Year by Year Records, Rosters, Highlights

Written by Sandy Sulzycki, '64

1942-43 -- Record: 6-10 Coach: Tom Murphy. Roster: Ed Tickey, McDonough, Steve Moran, Russell Ayers, Bill Madden, Emil Garofalo, Tom Quinn, Frank Kennelly, Frank "Stumpy" Falanga, Tucky Fenton, Lou Pak, Lawrence McMahon, McDoniough, and John "Mickey" McBride. Noteworthy: Sketchy records indicate that the bright spot on "a small but scrappy squad in Prep's first season was the play of sophomore Ed Tickey. The season concluded with a pair of wins over CYO teams. By the spring of 1943 Ayers and Moran were among a group of members of the Prep student body that were serving in the U.S. military during World War II.

1943-44 -- Record: 7-6 Coach: Tom Murphy. Roster: Captain Emil Garofalo, George Bisacca, Leo Broadbin, Ed Dailey, J. Duggan, Matt Forman, Bob Kravutske, Dave Murphy, J.E. Skarupa, Dick Shea, Marty Zadravec, Dick Greenwood, John Connolly, Fred Horvath, John Mozier, D.W. Murphy. Noteworthy: Prep defeated St. Basil's 32-25 in the fifth game of the season as "students, friends and parents thronged the stands," according to the Heartstone. It was the first game played at Prep's home court at the Knights of Columbus Hall across from St. Augustine Cathedral on Washington Avenue in Bridgeport. In only its second season, Prep was invited to represent Connecticut in the highly regarded, eight-team Eastern States Catholic Invitational (ECSI) in Newport, R.I., but lost in the first round. A total of 512 students, educated by a staff of 31 Jesuits, were squeezed into McCauliffe Hall, including a whopping 202 freshmen. Talented Ed Tickey, who starred as a sophomore, left midway through the football season for duty in the Marine Corps. Tickey would later play for the famous ASA powerhouse Raybestos Cardinals and would marry Raybestos Brakettes Hall of Fame pitcher Bertha Ragan. ... Garofalo would also play for and then manage the Cardinals and is a member of the Connecticut ASA Softball Hall of Fame and Prep's Hall of Fame (1980).

1944-45 -- Record: 11-7 Coach: Tom Murphy. Roster: Captain Emil Garofalo, George Bisacca, Leo Broadbin, John Connelly, Ed Dailey, Matt Forman, Fred Horvath, John "Mickey" McBride, Dick Shea, Walter Sullivan and manager Leo Gallagher. Noteworthy: Prep was again invited to the ESCI in Newport, R.I., but suffered a first-round loss for the second straight year. The Jesuits sported the school's first "official" uniforms for the tournament thanks to Athletic Director Father John Barry, who had developed a friendship with Coach Gintoff's friends like businessmen Marty Tristene and John Neary. The old uniforms were little better than practice jerseys so, "We looked pretty good," according to Garofalo. Veteran referee Charlie Petrino described Garofalo as, "The best schoolboy courtman in the state." Highlighting the season was a decisive 47-25 win over district and state powerhouse Central High of Bridgeport with the play of Garofalo, Dailey, McBride, Shea and Forman earning much of the credit. Garofalo, Forman, Shea, McBride and Dailey would be selected to Prep's All-Decade Basketball Team (1942-51). Garofalo, a shortstop, and McBride, an end, would also be selected in baseball and football, respectively while Garofalo was a two-year captain in both sports. He holds the distinction of winning the first game played at Alumni Hall in December of 1959 when his Fairfield University freshman team beat Holy Cross.

1945-46 -- Record: 16-8 Coach: Tom Murphy. Roster: W. Bahner, George Bisacca, Leo Broadbin, Earl Cote, Ed Dailey, Matt Forman, E. Jurgielewicz, Tom Keeley, Fred Horvath, John "Mickey" McBride, Dick Shea, and R. Wright. Managers W. Spodnick and R. Steele. Noteworthy: This was Murphy's fourth and final season at the helm, finishing with an overall record of 39-31 (.557). Prep beat host De La Salle Academy 44-32 in the opening round of the ESCI in Newport, R.I. According to press reports: "Guided by Matt Forman, wiry center who bucketed 21 points in a splendid exhibition, the Red and White captured the admiration, if not the sympathy of a partisan crowd numbering approximately 1,400 fans, with their ball handling finesse and fine shot making." However, Prep lost its next two games to a pair of New York teams (Regis 37-27 and La Salle 42-30). Forman went on to play at Holy Cross where his freshman season ended before a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd as the small Jesuit college from Worcester, Mass., put the Crusaders in the national headlines by capturing the 1947 NCAA championship over Oklahoma 58-47. His teammates included MVP George Kaftan, long-time Providence coach Joe Mullaney and freshman guard Bob Cousy. He was also a member of the Final Four team as a sophomore in 1948 when Holy Cross beat Michigan, lost to Kentucky and future NFL star Alex Groza and beat Kansas State to finish third. As a senior he helped the Crusaders reach the Elite Eight when they lost to North Carolina State and Ohio State. Forman was selected as the first pick of the 10th round by the Boston Celtics. Forman was also a standout pitcher at Prep, making the All-Decade team in baseball as well as basketball. The 16 victories was a record that stood for 15 years until the 1961-62 season when first-year coach Bob Sylvester's team went 18-5. Coach George Bisacca's 1956-57 squad also tied the 16-win mark against five defeats.

1946-47 -- Record: 8-8 Coach: Fella Gintoff (1st year). Roster: Captain Dave Roach, Piro, John Ryan, Maurice "Mousy" Fenton, Tom Keeley, Kruzsak. Jimmy Homa, Gaynor Brennan, Kendall Murphy and managers W. Spodnick and Schaefer. Noteworthy: Keeley. a smooth-handling guard, was the only returning letterman so Gintoff had to rely mainly on junior varsity players from the previous season in his first year.The season's highlights included a 32-22 win over Stratford, which was Prep's first victory over the Scarlet and Gold in any sport, and a 47-43 decision over highly-rated Stamford.

1947-48 -- Record: 6-7 Coach: Fella Gintoff. Roster: Captain Kendall Murphy, George "Babe" Risley, Gaynor Brennan, Donald "Duck" Incerto, Joe Kraynick, Tom Keeley, John Maiocco, Paul "Bonesy" Connelly, Ed Zysk, Gene DeMalt, Pat Ryan and Billy Smith.
1948-49 -- Record:11-7 Coach Fella Gintoff. Starters: Captain John Maiocco, George "Babe" Risley, Ed Zysk, Jack O'Connell, and Art Dailey. Off the bench: R. Zanesky, D. Phelan, Fred Lane, Billy Smith, Bob Gerwien. Noteworthy: Prep beat defending CIAC champion Hillhouse 37-24 in a Fairfield University prelim game at the Armory (Bridgeport Brass Center) on Main Street. Future standouts O'Connell and Gerwien played key roles as sophomores.

1949-50 -- Record:12-2 Coach Fella Gintoff. Starters: Captain John Maiocco and Ed Dardani at guard, juniors Jack O'Connell and Bob Gerwien at forwards; and 6-foot-1 center George "Babe Risley". Off the bench: Jim Stapleton, John Phelan, Billy Smith, Charlie LaChioma, Bob Toth and Gene DeMalt. Noteworthy: Risley, Maiocco, O'Connell and Gerwien were eventually named to Prep's All-Decade Basketball team (1942-51) while Risley was the only one to make the All-Decade teams in all three sports. A life-long resident of Fairfield, he was considered to be one of the finest all-around athletes, not only at Prep, but also from the Greater Bridgeport area. Risley would play one year of baseball at Holy Cross before signing a $10,000 bonus contract with Detroit in 1952, spending most of his 14 years of pro ball as a third baseman in Triple A leagues. He died suddenly at the age of 63 in December of 1995 in Pompano Beach, Fla., according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Jesuits edged Harding 62-61 in OT before a capacity crowd at the Presidents' gym for the school's first varsity basketball win over the East Siders.

1950-51-- Record:11-4 Coach: Fella Gintoff. Starters: Captain Jack O'Connell, Bob Gerwien at forward, center Dick Ramik and guards Ted Lovely, Fred Lane and Anthony "Swing" Incerto. Off the bench: Joe Fida, George McGoldrick, Shanley, Rohner and Gillis. Noteworthy: Practices and home games were now being conducted at the Armory on Main Street in Bridgeport. O'Connell finished third among district scorers (Bridgeport, Stratford, Fairfield) with 15 ppg and Gerwien sixth at 14.2. Both were All-District selections. Gerwien (1,062 points) and O'Connell (1,016) stayed together and continued their careers across campus at Fairfield University where they were among the first inductees into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982.

1951-52-- Record: 7-8 Coach: Fella Gintoff, assistant George Bisacca. Roster: Captain Dick Ramik, Joe Feda, Ed Brennan, Dick Noble, Joe Samsel, Dan Miko, Don Sullivan, George McGoldrick, Art Pavluvcik, Bill Gilhuly, Copertino, Allan Thomson. Noteworthy: Ramik was the lone returning starter from a year ago. Bisacca joined the staff as Gintoff's assistant after the former Prep player graduated from Georgetown in only three years.

1952-53 -- Record:8-8 Coach: George Bisacca. Starters: Captain Art Pavluvcik, Joe Samsel, Bob Brennan, Dick Noble, Dan Miko. Off the bench: Vin Martin, Bill Gilhuly, Ron Liptak. Noteworthy: Bisacca was described in the Heartstone as Prep's "new and zealous coach," managing to put together a .500 season despite losing Miko for five weeks with an ankle injury in the opener. Martin was then lost for most of the season with a broken hand the second game. A team scoring record was set in a 71-36 win over Milford Prep as the ambidextrous Brennan and Pavluvcik combined for 30 points. Liptak, a sophomore standout, made his presence felt with 18 points in a 61-48 loss to Stamford.

1953-54 -- Record:13-5 Coach: George Bisacca. Starters: Co-captains Bill Gilhuly and Vin Martin, Ken Samu, Lou Viglione, Dolph D'Aulisa, Ron Liptak, John Bruzas. Off the bench: Tibor Guthin, George Bodie, Ron Grudzinski. D'Aulisa, who quarterbacked Prep's first undefeated and untied football team at 8-0 in the fall of 1953, equaled the school scoring record with 24 points in a season-ending 59-57 win over Stamford. ... A team scoring record was set for the second straight year in a 73-43 win against Bullard-Havens as Gilhuly led the way with 15 points.

1954-55 -- Record:14-6 Coach: George Bisacca. Starters: Co-captains Ron Liptak and Lou Viglione, Mickey Buckmir, Ken Samu, Henry Rojas, Dolph D'Aulisa. Off the bench: Bob Ivanko, Ron Grudzinski, Charlie Cassano, Jim Keane, Rich Keane, Bob Valus, R. Liskoski, Ken Lisi. Noteworthy: Since Prep would still not be eligible for CIAC state tournament consideration until next season, it participated in the Eastern States Catholic Invitational in Newport, R.I., where Liptak made the All-Tournament team after leading the tourney in scoring. Liptak, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, broke the single-game scoring record four times during the course of the season (25 in a 57-53 loss to Stepinac, 27 in a 70-58 win over Harding, 30 in a 57-53 loss to CIAC tournament-bound Naugatuck and a 32 in the consolation game of the ESCI in Newport, R.I. Ron's older brother, John, '49, quarterbacked the 1948 football team and made the 1942-51 All-Decade Baseball team as a third baseman.

1955-56 -- Record:15-7 Coach: George Bisacca. Starters: Co-captains Henry Rojas and Jim Keane, Rich Keane, Charlie Casano, Ken Lisi, Joe Sikorski. Off the bench: Jim "Red" Moran, Joe Dunn, Paul Mayers, Frank Robotti, Bob Valus. Noteworthy: This was the first time that Prep was eligible to participate in the CIAC tournament and the eighth-seeded Jesuits responded by winning their first two tourney games against Torrington and fourth-seed Norwalk 60-57 before losing in the semifinals to eventual champ Hartford Weaver 75-58 and future Providence and NBA standout (11 years) John Egan at the New Haven Arena where all tournament games were played. Under new qualifying rules the tournament field in all three classes was restructured to the top 16 schools on the basis of a point percentage system. Home games and practices were now conducted at the North End Boys Club on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport.

1956-57 -- Record:16-5 Coach: George Bisacca. Starters: Co-captains Joe Sikorski and Joe Dunn, Dan Coombs, Jim "Red" Moran, Bob Valus, Steve Csontos. Off the bench: Paul Mayers, R. Zalman, Dick Lund, Len "Butch" Benedetto, R. Baker, Bill Mullaney. Noteworthy: Seventh-seeded Prep had its school record 12-game win streak snapped when it lost to 11th seed Sacred Heart of Waterbury 55-53 in the opening round of the CIAC tournament before a New Haven Arena crowd of 4,500. The Jesuits led by 12-at the half and by eight entering the fourth quarter. ... Dunn set a school record with 33 points in an impressive 72-54 victory over state powerhouse Wilbur Cross of New Haven in the final regular season game at the North End Boys Club. Dunn eclipsed the previous high of 32 set by Ron Liptak in the 1954-55 season. The 16 wins matched the record of coach Tom Murphy in 1945-46.

1957-58 -- Record: 9-14 Coach: George Bisacca. Roster: Co-captains Steve Csontos, Bill Mullaney, J. Cambell, T. Green, Dean Kramer, Tony Barletto, T. Ryan, S. "Gunner" Leskovsky, Joe Troiano, R. Murphy, Tony Gorman, Pat Jordan, W. French. Noteworthy: Coach Bisacca, who would come to be affectionately known as the "Father of Fairfield Prep and University Basketball" concluded his six-years at the helm with a 75-45 overall record (.625) as he moved across campus to take over the basketball fortunes at Fairfield University.

1958-59 -- Record: 8-10 Coach: Vin Burns. Roster: Captain Joe Troiano, Dean Kramer, Ed Rowe, Ray "Sparky" Ulatowski, S. "Gunner" Leskovsky, Rocky Inglis, R. Cleary, Tony Barletto, J. "Doc" Noonan, Larry O'Toole, Frank Giordano, Dick Robinson. Noteworthy: Vin Burns took over as head coach with Tom Roach assisting. While Troiano earned All-District honors, the Jesuits were hurt by the absence of husky center "Doc" Noonan. Alumni Hall was dedicated on Dec. 5, 1959, enabling Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University to practice and play their games on campus for the first time. The opening of Interstate-95 south of the campus greatly enhanced the students' commute.

Alumni Hall is a 2,479 seat multi-purpose facility on the campus of Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep that opened on Dec. 5, 1959 and has become well-known for its raucous atmosphere. It's one of the earliest pre-stressed concrete structures of its kind ever attempted. Engineering magazines from the time noted that the eleven 160-foot pre-cast arches used in the building’s construction were a record-breaking span for pre-cast arch ribs used in the United States. (Wikipedia).

"Throughout the spring of '59, the big attention-getter on campus was the construction of the new gymnasium, located behind Berchmans Hall. The structure was unique in its design in that it had large half-moon trusses to support its Quonset hut-shaped roof. Many people believed that such a daring design would never work. Nevertheless, the building, erected by E & F Construction Company, became the long-time home of the University and Prep athletic teams." (A Tradition of Excellence by John Szablewicz)

1959-60 -- Record:10-11 Coach: Vin Burns; assistant and junior varsity coach, Bob Sylvester. Roster: Captain Rocco "Rocky" Inglis, Pete Frigon, Donald "Ducky" Moran, Gerry Habansky, Ed McCarthy, Frank Grywalski, Frank Giordano, Dick Robinson, and freshman Jim Lyddy.

1960-61 -- Record:15-7 Coach: Vin Burns; assistant and junior varsity coach, Bob Sylvester Roster: Captain Frank Grywalski, Pete Frigon, Jim Lyddy, Brian Murphy, Donald "Ducky" Moran, Ed McCarthy, George Pond, Ray "Sparky" Ulatowski, Neal Rist, Sean Lavin, Ray Mosko. Noteworthy: Prep tied Bassick for the Metropolitan Bridgeport Interscholastic Athletic Conference (MBIAC) title and defeated Bassick and Andrew Warde in the early rounds of the CIAC Class LL tournament before losing to talented Wilbur Cross. Murphy, who would become a long-time member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as an infielder and scout, led the team in scoring at 18 ppg and was a first team Bridgeport Herald All-District team as was Grywalski, joining top vote-getter Bob Kinney, ND-Bridgeport; Ricky Grich, Milford; and Ed Lomax, Bassick. Ulatowski, a senior, and Lyddy, a sophomore, were second team selections. Grywalski, McCarthy, Frigon, Moran and Mosko were members of the 1960-61 state championship 10-0 football team. Moran, a versatile three-sport athlete, also held down the centerfield spot while batting cleanup for Coach Joe Brosley. Riordan, a pitcher; Pond, a catcher, also played three-sports. This was Burns' third and final season as head coach with a 32-29 overall record (.524).

1961-62-- Record:18-5 Coach: Bob Sylvester; assistant and junior varsity coach, Harry Hyra. Starters: Guards Jim Lyddy and Shaun Lavin, forwards Neal Rist and Fred Luminoso and center Bill Lavin. Off the bench: Frank Donnarummo, Ray Mahon, Kevin McCarthy, Sandy Sulzycki, George Pond, Larry Carroll, Ray Mosko, Allan Reed, Bob Riordan. Noteworthy: Sylvester began his illustrious 17-year tenure with a school-record 18 wins, another co-MBIAC championship, this time with Harding, and a stunning 57-54 upset of top-rated Bristol Eastern in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL tournament, rallying from a 12-point deficit entering the fourth quarter before losing to Notre Dame-West Haven 63-60 at the UConn Field House. Lyddy was selected first team All-District while Lavin was a second team selection, both as juniors. Former Ludlowe High and Fairfield University standout Harry Hyra's junior varsity team compiled an 18-2 record with Ed Matulionis and Bob Wyatt leading the way in the frontcourt and John Barney and Stan Czulewicz in the backcourt.

1962-63 -- Record: 18-6 Coach: Bob Sylvester. Starters: Co-captains Jim Lyddy and Bill Lavin, Larry Carroll, John Barney, Sandy Sulzycki. Off the bench: Sandy See, Lou Falango, Jim Collins, Stan Czulewicz, Phil Murphy, Bob Wyatt, Howie Benedict, Ed Matulionis, Ed Heffern, Bob Curley. Noteworthy: The Jesuits were the last remaining team from the region in the CIAC state tournament as they became only the second in school history to reach the Class A CIAC semifinals with wins over Croft of Waterbury 79-63, Notre Dame-West Haven 82-72, and fourth-ranked Staples 63-59 before losing to second seed and eventual champion Hillhouse 89-69 at the UConn Field House as the New Haven powerhouse broke open a close game with a 16-2 spurt to open the final quarter. According to a pre-game writeup in the New Haven Register: "Many upstate observers felt that Prep's very presence in the semifinal round was an upstart invasion of the sanctum of 'The Terrible Trio' of Hartford Public, Hillhouse and Wilbur Cross." Prep was eighth-seeded while MBIAC rival Notre Dame of Bridgeport was the No. 1 tourney seed with an 18-1 record. Lyddy averaged nearly 20 ppg and became the school's first All-State basketball player, closing out his stellar four-year career with 1,308 points while Lavin set a school rebounding record, averaging 18 ppg. The pair was known as "The Double L Twins". Lyddy capped his career at Georgetown by serving as team captain his senior year while Lavin spent a year at Seton Hall before he transferred to Fairfield University to concentrate on becoming a doctor.

1963-64 -- Record:10-10 Coach: Bob Sylvester, assistant Joe Siskorski. Roster: Captain Sandy Sulzycki, John Barney, Stan and Drew Czulewicz, Jim Collins, Bob Curley, Ed Heffern, Bill Turey, Mark Valentine, Bob Wyatt, Frank Yahner, Lou Falango and freshman Tom Lyddy. Noteworthy: Highlighting a disappointing .500 season were impressive upsets on the road over Notre Dame-Bridgeport 71-70 in OT and Harding 73-63. The Presidents were ranked fifth in state at the time. Prep was seeded 31st and last in the CIAC Class A tourney pairings, but upset 16th seed Enfield 68-48 in the preliminary round before losing to Bristol Eastern.

1964-65 -- Record: 14-5 Coach: Bob Sylvester, assistant Joe Sikorski. Roster: Co-captains Jim Collins and Stan Czulewicz, Ed Wargo, Bob Curley, Ed Heffern, Tom Lyddy, Drew Czulewicz, Bill Turey, Mark Valentine, Ralph Doerr, Bill Kosturko, Julie Triber, Bill McCarthy. Noteworthy: Prep finished second in the MBIAC behind Notre Dame-Bridgeport (a perfect 18-0 league record). Lanky center Jim Collins finished second in MBIAC scoring and was a defensive standout in earning first team All-District honors along with Stan Czulewicz, who was one of the more consistent scorers despite facing much taller opponents from his forward position.

1965-66 -- Record: 10-8 Coach: Bob Sylvester; Joe Sikorski assistant. Roster: Co-captains Mark Valentine and Drew Czulewicz, Ed Wargo, Pat Foley, Ralph Doerr, Bill Kosturko, Joe Nagy, Hal Lonergan, Bill McCarthy, Bob Cholko, Tom Bukowski, John Sulzycki. Despite the loss of Czulewicz to a football injury and injuries to Doerr and McCarthy, the highlight of the season was an upset of previously undefeated Notre Dame-Bridgeport. Prep lost in the first round of the CIAC tournament to a talented Darien team that was led by fututre UConn standout Bob Staack, who also became a successful college coach, mainly at Xavier and Wake Forest. Valentine earned first team All-MBIAC honors and went on to play three years at Clark.

1966-67 -- Record: 17-1 regular season, 21-2 overall Coach: Bob Sylvester Starters: Junior co-captains Pat Foley and Bob Cholko, Jim Fitzsimmons, Tom Bukowski, Tom Lyddy. Off the bench: Hal Smith, J. Kohut, T. Hamilton, John Yahner, Jim Naveken, John Sulzycki, C. Anderson. Noteworthy: The Jesuits set a record for most wins (21) and earned the school's first outright MBIAC title. The lone regular-season loss came against Harding 54-53 at Alumni Hall before the Jesuits prevailed in the rematch in overtime while a pair of wins were posted over Notre Dame-Bridgeport. The Jesuits earned a No.1 seed in the CIAC Class L tournament, advancing to the finals before losing to Sacred Heart of Waterbury 70-57. It was the first of three straight appearances in the Class L championship game.

1967-68 -- Record: 21-2 Coach: Bob Sylvester. Roster: Co-Captains Pat Foley and Bob Cholko, John Sulzycki, Wally Halas, Jim Naveken, Jim Fitzsimmons, Hal Smith, Tom Bukowski. Noteworthy: Prep defended its MBIAC title and defeated Bassick, Harding 96-62, and Waterford in the semis before losing to East Catholic 75-69 in the CIAC Class L championship game. Fitzsimmons, a junior, earned the first of his two Class L All-State honors. Fitzsimmons (17.8 ppg), Foley (14.2), Bukowski (12.9) and Cholko (12.2) averaged double figures while Butkowski (230) and Fitzsimmons (209) were the leading rebounders. Smith was the "sixth-man" and was compared to John "Hondo" Havlicek of the Boston Celtics. Sylvester reached the 100-win plateau, improving to 111-39 (.740) in his first seven seasons.

The Early Years

1951-52 ~ 1957-58

George Bisacca '46

Head coach 1952-58, 75-45, .625

George Bisacca played three years of baseball and basketball at Prep and was a member of the school's first four-year graduating class in 1946. It was no secret that Tom Murphy and Fella Gintoff were considered football-oriented coaches and handled the baseball and basketball duties as a sidelight. Bisacca was considered a "student of the game." During his tenure, he helped several of his players continue their careers on the college level. After the 1957-58 season, Bisacca moved across campus to Fairfield University where he led the Stags for 10 years (151-87,.634) into the Division I era, starting with a stipend of $1,500. He became known affectionately as "The Father of Fairfield Basketball". He also served as its Athletic Director from 1964-71. He accomplished all this on a part-time basis while never relinquishing his busy law practice, where he specialized in Sports Law. On Nov. 6, 2016, the Alumni Hall court was dedicated in his honor and is now the George R. Bisacca Court.

Prep Basketball Team 1956-57

Bisacca recalls: "My father was a big fan of Prep and I was going there, like it or not, and it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. The Jesuit education formed us for the rest of our lives. I might have felt a little bit out of place at the beginning but thanks to Irishmen like Ed Dailey, Mickey McBride, and Dick Shea, life at Prep was a thoroughly rewarding experience. ... We might have had one or two balls that were decent and the rest were just awful. Tom Murphy would throw them out on the court and our captain, Emil Garofalo, would then take over practice and be our coach on the court. We did not have a home court so all our games were considered "road games." After games or practices at the Knights of Columbus, the professional wrestlers would be down in the locker room smoking their cigars, they were a pretty scary bunch. I was able to pick up a lot of the finer points of the game by going to clinics at the Catskill mountains in upstate New York from legends like Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, Joe Lapchick of St. John's and Notre Dame's Elmer Ripley. I just absorbed what they were saying. Growing up in Bridgeport I also benefited from going to Middle Street Boys Club under the tutelage of Clay McGran. . Joe Sikorski was the toughest kid I ever coached, and coupled with Frank Robotti made a formidable frontcourt combination."

Prep Basketball Team 1957-58

Ron Liptak '55

A three-year letterman as a forward in basketball and all four years in baseball as a shortstop, Ron Liptak co-captained the 1954-55 basketball team along with guard Lou Viglione. He broke the single-game scoring record four times his senior year, eventually setting the mark of 32 points in the season-ending consolation game of the Eastern States Catholic Invitational in Newport, R.I., where he was named to the all-tournament team. Liptak was a product of Bridgeport's South End "Hunk Town", he got his early start in basketball under Jim Kish at Middle Street Boys Club, winning the 1953 State League title, and in baseball as he captained the Bridgeport Original Little League All-Stars as they advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., finishing third in 1949 and second in 1950 with future Prep teammates Lou Viglione and Ken Samu also on the squad. He quickly earned the reputation as one of Bridgeport's finest shortstops during that time, and later received a baseball/basketball scholarship to Holy Cross where he averaged 21 ppg on the freshman team and then starred for three years in baseball for legendary coach Jack Berry. The Crusaders finished third in the 1958 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., after beating UConn 2-1 on fellow Prep alum Jack Ringel's RBI double in extra innings before losing to eventual champ USC. Liptak was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958 and played minor league before his pro career was interrupted when his U.S. Army Reserve unit was activated during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. After retiring from professional baseball in 1963, he spent over 30 years with the Travelers Insurance Company in its Group Insurance Department in Grand Rapids, Mich. He remained vitally active in the community, especially with the Special Education Department where he assisted high school special needs students in adjusting to work related environments. Liptak volunteered as a driver for Michigan Blood Inc., and donated over 16 gallons of blood. His older brother, John, quarterbacked the 1948 football team and also starred in baseball at Prep, earning a spot on the 1942-51 All-Decade Baseball team as a third baseman before graduating in 1949. John went on to play baseball at Wake Forest as a catcher and signed with the New York Yankees.

Ron Liptak recalls: "Coach Bisacca brought Prep basketball up a few notches and wasn't just a great coach, but a wonderful person. My senior year was the first year we practiced and played home games at the North End Boys Club in Bridgeport. Because of the unavailability of the gym, practices would not get over until after 7 p.m., but he used to spend added time by driving all over the city making sure his players got home safely. My father, John, grew up in the depression and was a toolmaker by trade and always worked his tail off with second or third jobs just so my brother and I could go to Prep if we wanted. I have fond memories of Bridgeport and its dynamic sports environment, playing ball every day, and then putting those lessons to good use at Prep."

Jim Keane '56

Jim Keane, a 6-foot-4 forward, and Henry Rojas, a 6-foot-5 center, were two experienced lettermen as juniors before they were elected co-captains of the 1955-56 team that earned a spot in school history by becoming the first team to compete in the CIAC basketball tournament. Prep was 8th-seeded in the 16-team field, opening with wins over Torrington and 4th-seeded Norwalk 60-57 before losing to eventual champion Hartford Weaver 75-58 in the semifinals to finish 15-7. All tournament games were played at the New Haven Arena.

Keane recalls: "I grew up in the Riverside section of Greenwich where I attended St. Catherine Parochial School and when it came time to decide where I was going to high school I really did not have much choice. A Catholic education was very important for my parents and my brothers Tom, '48, and Charlie, '53, had already graduated from Prep. It could have been either Iona Prep or Archbishop Stepinac in New York but I decided to follow my brothers, and older cousins (Gilhulys and Bakers), who all went to Fairfield Prep. I took the train in from Riverside and met Frank Robotti, Henry Rojas and his brother Al in Stamford. We did that until our senior year when our team manager,Joe Leonetti, of Stamford, was able to drive us to and from school. By then we were playing and practicing at the North End Boys Club but we didn't think the commute was much of an inconvenience. Joe Sikorski was the other forward while Charlie Casano and Ken Lisi were the guards. Coach Bisacca had us run a pro offense with constant movement. The only one that didn't do much ball-handling was Henry (Rojas), but he had a deadly hook shot and led us in scoring. Former Central High all-stater Ron DelBianco was the physical education director and I became a pretty good rebounder because of the pointers he gave me on the proper techniques. He was a great mentor and I always appreciated how he helped me out, but I'm sure he rooted for Central when we played them. When we played Notre Dame of West Haven, Robotti and Nick Pietrosante would do a lot of chest bumping. If another team had a few football players and thought they could outmuscle us down low, Robotti would come in and give us the edge."

James P. Lyddy, PH.D. '63

Gentile's High School Basketball annual pre-season publication was considered the sports's go-to source and its December 1962 edition featured Prep's Jim Lyddy on the front cover, signifying that the 6-foot senior guard was the top-rated player in the state according to John Gentile, the editor. The highly touted youth phenom from Bridgeport's North End was respectively listed ahead of such players as George Benoit, Bristol Central; Frank Carr, Hillhouse; Bob Lugee, Smith and Doug Wardlow, Wilbur Cross. Gentile's predictions were proven on-spot at the end of the year when Lyddy was the top vote-getter on the 1963 New Haven Register's six-man All-State Basketball Team, becoming Prep's first all-stater in the sport and its all-time scoring leader at that time with 1,308 points over a four-year career. The team included Carr and Jim Brown, Hillhouse; Tony Proto and Wardlow, Wilbur Cross; and Cliff Thornton, Hartford Public. It should be noted again that Prep teams in all sports were not eligible for state tournament consideration nor its players considered for all-state honors until the fall of 1955. Certainly players from earlier teams, but not limited to Babe Risley '50, Jack O'Connell and Bob Gerwien '51,and Ron Liptak, '55 would have drawn legitimate consideration for all-state honors.

Lyddy capped his Prep career with 107 points in four CIAC tournament games, including 28 points in an 89-69 semifinal loss to eventual champion Hillhouse. "A dandy shooting exhibition, just tremendous'" was the way legendary Hillhouse coach Sam Bender described Lyddy's efforts. "We kept switching on him with different men, but it didn't do much good. Our boys really started to work when they found out Fairfield Prep was giving them a battle," Bender said after Prep had pulled to within 46-44 in the third quarter. Lyddy is believed to be the only three-time All-MBIAC basketball selection (second team as a sophomore before a pair of first team honors) in the history of the league while also earning a pair of All-MBIAC baseball selections as a shortstop. After serving as captain his senior year at Georgetown, Lyddy taught and coached varsity basketball for a year each at Bullard-Havens Tech and Bridgeport Central and spent two years as an assistant at Georgetown.

Lyddy's early credentials were impressive, earning Mr. Biddy Basketball honors in leading the Bridgeport All-Stars to the 1957 World Biddy Basketball Championship in Scranton, Pa., after helping the North End Little League to a third place finish as a pitcher/catcher in the 1956 Little World Series in Williamsport, Pa. He also starred as St. Patrick's dominated the Parochial League and for the North End Boys Club in State League play. Jim’s late brother Tom earned all-MBIAC, all-state and Catholic All-American honors as a tackle on coach Earl Lavery's 10-0 team in 1967.
Most recently Jim has served as the principal at James P. Lyddy LLC, Philanthropic Consultant out of Spring Lake Heights, N.J., for the last four years. He has also served as the Chairman of Development at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for six years. He is also a Senior VP at Grisham-Pelton in Summit, N.J. He earned his Ph.D in Higher Education Administration.

The Early Years

1942-43 ~ 1950-51

Written by Sandy Sulzycki, '64
Just as their counterparts in football, the basketball program has also played a key role in the Fairfield Prep experience right from the start and has continued to do so for all 75 years of Prep history. Here's a look at some of the coaches, players, memories and highlights from that pivotal era when Prep had to earn the respect of the region's public schools that already had long-established reputations in athletics. Prep teams in all sports were not recognized by the CIAC at the time, had to play independent schedules, and were not eligible for state tournament consideration nor its players for all-state honors until the fall of 1955. The Connecticut Association of Secondary Schools had voted earlier in April of that year to end the ban on private and parochial schools, allowing such schools as Prep to join the CASS.

Fairfield Prep 1944-45 Basketball Team

Fairfield Prep 1945-46 Basketball Team

Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University did not have a home court until the construction of Alumni Hall was completed in December of 1959. Prior to that, practices and home games had to be conducted at various sites in Bridgeport, including the old Knights of Columbus Hall on Washington Avenue across from St. Augustine Cathedral, The Armory (also known as the Brass Center, currently the Archbishop Shehan Center) on Main Street and the North End Boys Club on Madison Avenue. The school did not provide transportation so players were expected to car pool or take public transportation for practices and then get back home on their own.


Emil Garofalo, '45; Matt Forman, Dick Shea, John "Mickey" McBride and Ed Dailey all from '46; John Maiocco and George "Babe" Risley, '50; Jack O'Connell, Fred Lane, and Bob Gerwien, '51.

Garofalo (shortstop), Forman (pitcher), Shea (2nd base) and Risley (right field): also members of the All-Decade Baseball Team. McBride (end), Risley (end) and Maiocco (halfback): also members of the All-Decade Football Team.
Source: "A Tradition of Excellence" by John Szablewicz


  • Tom Murphy: 4 years, 1942-43 to 1945-46, record 39-31 (.557)

  • Fella Gintoff: 6 years, 1946-47 to 1951-52, record 56-36 (.607)

  • George Bisacca: 6 years, 1952-53 to 1957-58, record 75-45 (.625)

  • Vin Burns: 3 years, 1958-59 to 1960-61, record 32-29 (.524)

  • Bob Sylvester: 16 years, 1961-62 to 1977-78, 1969 CIAC state champions

Source: Heartstone yearbook reports

After guiding the football team through its inaugural season in the fall of 1942, coach Tom Murphy did the same in basketball with a small but scrappy team that finished 6-10. Murphy did not teach at Prep but was employed as a purchasing agent at Bridgeport Molding Products on Kings Highway in Fairfield and at Park City Metal in Bridgeport. Murphy compiled a 39-31 overall record (.557) over his four years. His teams showed steady improvement the next three years, going 7-6 in 1943-44, 11-6 in 1944-45 and 14-9 in 1945-46. His last two teams played in the prestigious eight-team Eastern States Catholic Invitational Tournament in Newport, R.I., losing to Cumberland, Md., 42-28 in the 1945 finals and in the 1946 semifinals to St. Elizabeth of New Jersey which was coached by Vince Lombardi, who had played college football at Fordham and had become friends with Murphy, an end at Notre Dame. Emil Garofalo captained Murphy's teams his junior and senior seasons.

Fella Gintoff, who earned All-American citations during his three years in the backfield at Boston College, came to Prep after coaching at St. Raphael's Academy in Rhode Island and then Boston College High. Gintoff coached football, basketball and baseball for six years in addition to teaching math. Prep went 8-8, 6-7, 11-7, 12-2, 11-4 and 8-8 during his tenure, highlighted by impressive victories over regional, state and New England powerhouses Central, Harding and Hillhouse during the 1949-50 and 1950-51 seasons. Serving as captains for Gintoff's teams were Dave Roach, Kendall Murphy, John Maiocco twice, Jack O'Connell and Dick Ramik.

George Bisacca played basketball and baseball for three years at Fairfield Prep, graduating in 1946 with Honors as part of Prep's first four-year graduating class. He then played at Georgetown, graduating Cum Laude in only three years in 1949. He received his Doctor of Juris-prudence degree from Georgetown School of Law in 1951. While conducting his local law practice he served as an assistant under Gintoff for the 1951-52 season before assuming head coach duties the following season until 1957-58. From the four-year period from 1953-54 to 1956-57 his teams compiled impressive 13-5, 14-6, 13-6 and 16-4 records (56-21:.727). Prep's first CIAC state tournament appearance came in 1956 when it was 8th-seeded in the 16 team field. After opening with wins over Torrington and fourth-seeded Norwalk 60-57, Prep lost, 75-58, in the semifinals to eventual champion Hartford Weaver and two-time all-state guard John Egan (Providence College, 11 NBA seasons). All three games were played at the New Haven Arena. The 16 wins in 1956-57 was a school record. His captains were Art Pavluvcik, his first season in 1953, followed by co-captains Bill Gilhuly-Vin Martin, Lou Viglione-Ron Liptak, Henry Rojas-Jim Keane, Joe Dunn-Joe Sikorski, and Steve Csontos-Bill Mullaney.

Vin Burns took over in 1958-59 when Bisacca departed to become the head coach at Fairfield University. Burns '48, was a member of the 1942-51 All-Decade Baseball Team as an outstanding pitcher. An English teacher, he was assisted by Bob Sylvester. He went 8-10 his first season with Joe Troiano earning All-District honors, and 10-11 his second year with captain Rocky Inglis. Frank Grywalski captained Burns' third and final team that finished 14-8, earning co-MBIAC championship honors and a pair of CIAC wins over Bassick and Andrew Warde before losing to Wilbur Cross in the quarterfinals. Brian Murphy led the team in scoring (18 ppg) closely followed by Ray "Sparky" Ulatowski and sophomore Jim Lyddy. Five team members also played on the legendary 10-0 football team of 1960 that earned Prep's first state championship in any sport (backs Pete Frigon and Donald "Ducky" Moran, QB Ed McCarthy, George Pond and Grywalski, an end). McCarthy and Grywalski were all-state selections. Tackle Gene Skowronski was the third all-stater from that team, but did not play basketball.

Bob Sylvester's early 16-year career got underway in impressive fashion with his first two teams posting 18-5 and 18-6 records. The 1961-62 edition not only set a school record for wins, but was also co-MBIAC champs for the second straight season and upset top-rated Bristol Eastern in the opening round of the CIAC tournament before falling to Notre Dame-WH. The following season co-captains Jim Lyddy and Bill Lavin led Prep to the 1963 CIAC semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Hillhouse 89-69 at the original UConn Fieldhouse in Storrs. Lyddy capped off a brilliant four-year varsity career by becoming the first Prep player to earn all-state honors and surpass the 1,000-career point mark with 1,308.

After spending his freshman year at Ludlowe H.S. in Fairfield, Garofalo became a member of Prep's first sophomore class in the fall of 1942. He played three years of basketball and baseball, was named to the All-Decade team of 1942-51 in both sports and was a two-year captain in both sports. He went on to play three years of baseball at the University of Notre Dame. Veteran referee Charlie Petrino, certainly one of the best arbiters of the era, described Garofalo as the "Best schoolboy courtman in the state." ... Emil served an assistant coach at Fairfield University for four years, two under Jim Hanrahan and two under former Prep teammate George Bisacca. During his four years as coach, he helped elevate the program to Division I competition, mentoring the likes of Pedro Tagatac, Harry Hyra, Nick Macarchuk, Larry Rafferty, Art Crawford and Bob Jenkins. He holds the distinction of first coach to earn a win at Alumni Hall when his freshman team beat Holy Cross in 1959. He is a member of the Connecticut ASA Softball Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Fairfield Prep Hall of Fame in 1980. Garofalo recalls:

"When Prep was first getting started we practiced and played our games at the old Knights of Columbus Hall on Washington Avenue across from St. Augustine Cathedral. We had to drive there and I served as the chauffeur. The court was very small with fan-shaped baskets, was not well-lit with a few rows of wooden bleachers on both sides that seated a couple hundred at best. Players had to go downstairs to the locker room. ... We had some great players like Matt Forman, Dick Shea, Ed Dailey and John "Mickey" McBride and that was important because we were just trying to get established and earn some respect. In short time we made it known that Prep was a school that had to be reckoned with. We had to play against some great athletes: Central with George Saccone, Ed Bowden, and Buck Buchannon was one of our main rivals. Stamford had Andy Robustelli and Frank Robotti Sr. Zeke Bella was at Greenwich while in-town rival Ludlowe had Pat Farma, Rocko Jacuzzi and Bob and Bill Seirup. ... The game was mostly guard-orientated back then with very few big men, zone defense was very popular as were set plays with the fast-break only used occasionally. ... Making our first trip up to the 1945 Eastern States Catholic Invitational Tournament in Newport, R.I., in only our third season. It was quite an experience since it was the first time for any of us playing out of state. Plus we had brand new uniforms for the tournament thanks to our Athletic Director Father John Barry, who had developed a friendship with Fella Gintoff's friends like businessmen Marty Tristene and John Neary. Our old ones were a little better than practice jerseys so we looked pretty good."

One of the most ironic and compelling personal stories of Prep's early years in athletics is that of Matt Forman ('46), who grew up in the East End of Bridgeport on Union Avenue, went to St. Cyril's and would have gone to Harding High School. As a youth Matt was discouraged and not allowed to play sports by his mother. At first his name had to be "accidentally" left out of the box score that appeared in the newspapers the next day or his points attributed to another player. But Matt eventually won her over and she became one of his biggest supporters who rarely missed one of his games. Forman was only listed as 6-foot-1 and was very thin as a sophomore, but developed quickly and came into his own by the second half of his junior year and was close to 6-4 his senior year with great upper body strength. After playing his final game of the 1945-46 season at the no-frills Knights of Columbus Hall in Bridgeport, little did Forman, or his mother, realize that his freshman year Holy Cross would end before a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd in New York City as the Crusaders of coach Alvin "Doggie" Julian put the small Jesuit college from Worcester, Mass., in the national headlines by winning the 1947 NCAA championship 58-47 over Oklahoma. Holy Cross was the last seed in the eight-team field but got superb play from MVP George Kaftan, Joe Mullaney (long-time Providence coach), Andy Laska (Assumption College coach) and freshman guard Bob Cousy. The Crusaders were greeted by a crowd estimated between 20,000-35,000 on "Holy Cross Day" when they returned to Worcester. Forman was also a member of the Final Four team his sophomore season in 1948 when Holy Cross beat Michigan 63-45, lost to Kentucky and Alex Groza 60-52 and beat Kansas State 60-54 to finish third. As a senior he helped the Crusaders reach the Elite Eight when they lost to North Carolina State and Ohio State. Forman was selected as the first pick of the Boston Celtics in the 10th round of the NBA draft (109th overall). Forman later starred for Hamilton Standard of Windsor Locks which monopolized the State Industrial Championship. He would also perform locally during the 1950s for Perry Pilotti's All-Stars, along with Jack O'Connell and Bob Gerwien, as they battled Carl Braun's NBA All-Stars before large crowds at the Brass Center. Forman was also a standout pitcher at Prep, making the 1942-51 All-Decade team as well as in basketball. Forman would also pitch at Holy Cross.

You can't talk about one without mentioning the other. Their story covers a lifetime of being classmates, teammates and friends and is a remarkable one that very few, if any, can match. O'Connell and Gerwien attended the same school (all eight years at Blessed Sacrament in the East End of Bridgeport where they won the state parochial school basketball championship as eighth-graders). Both played on Middle Street Boys Club's State League championship team coached by Clayton McGran whose teams became well-known for their full-court press. Both were teammates at Prep for coach Gintoff where they earned All-District honors and were selected to the All-Decade Team. Both played at Fairfield University for Jim Hanrahan and were co-captains as seniors. Both were among the first inductees into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982. Remarkably, that's 16 straight years at the same schools and on the same teams unless it was during pickup games on the asphalt courts in the back of Blessed Sacrament before Father Tierney organized a team. After their college seasons were over, both would play in local and regional tournaments, including exhibition games at the Armory against touring pro teams from the NBA like Carl Braun's All-Stars which included his teammates from the Knicks like Harry "The Horse" Gallatin and Dick McGuire. ... Both proudly say that during all that time they never had an argument, not even a minor disagreement. Immediately after college they served for two years in the U.S. Army. They still meet monthly in Bridgeport with old friends from the East End and Fairfield University, with Gerwien making it in from Danbury and O'Connell from Stratford. Gerwien worked for the Diocese of Bridgeport for 37 years before retiring in 1996. He was the first lay principal in the state at Immaculate High School in Danbury where he was a math teacher, athletic director and basketball coach from 1963-72. He also taught and coached basketball and baseball at Stamford Catholic (now Trinity Catholic) from 1959-63. O'Connell retired from the food brokerage business in the Boston area in 1998 and returned to the Bridgeport area.

At Prep, O'Connell was an adept playmaker with a deadly one-handed, patented push shot. He was a three-year starter while Gerwien was a two-year starter and rugged rebounder in the frontcourt who blossomed into a star his junior and senior years. O'Connell was the captain his senior year when he was third among the district's top scorers (15 ppg) as he and Gerwien(14.2 ppg) earned All-District honors (Bridgeport, Stratford and Fairfield) along with Nick Vancho (Harding); Porky Vieira, Ernie Petruciano and Ron DelBianco (Central); Walter Waltz (Ludlowe), Joe Markoya (Bullard-Havens) and John "Sunny Boy" Forizs (Stratford). During the years of 1949-51, the Jesuits went 34-13 (.723) upsetting regional and state powers Bridgeport Central, Harding and Hillhouse of New Haven the years they were state and/or New England champs. Vancho, a two-time all-state selection at Harding and fellow Bridgeport East Ender, had high praise for Prep's teams and players. "Without a doubt Prep was the equal of any of the state's best teams of that time and O'Connell, Gerwien, Babe Risley and Fred Lane certainly were right up there with all the top players and would have drawn support for all-state recognition, if eligible," Vancho said.

After graduating from Prep, the two stayed together and continued their careers across campus at Fairfield University. The Stags were in need of a rebounder and Gerwien stepped in right away as a freshman, earning a spot in the starting lineup and keeping it all four years. Just like at Prep, rebounding and scoring from down low were the strongest parts of his game. He put those skills to good use by leading the Stags in rebounding while posting 1,062 career points. O'Connell (1,016 career points) played four years of varsity, three as a starter, and his 20.6 ppg average as a senior still ranks as 7th best in school history. It was during this time that they were referred to as the "Gold Dust Twins" by the local press.

O'Connell recalls: "Growing up in Bridgeport, I naturally wanted to go to Harding, but my parents made the sacrifice and sent me to Prep. It would be a decision I will always be the better for. I had so many great memories of my basketball career there, but as I reflect, I loved to practice and be with my teammates. We never considered the obstacles we had getting to school and practice at the Armory, all the time on the old CRL bus line. The teachers were great and expected us to perform in the classroom and athletes did not get any breaks, setting a good example for the other students. One teacher I had always called on me first thing if he knew we had a game the night before so I knew I had to be prepared. I made so many great friends on account of sports and still see many of them now. I consider myself very lucky to have attended Prep and that I was a help in laying the foundation for Prep athletics and basketball in particular. ...At that time freshmen could not play junior varsity or varsity, but only on the freshman team. However, we were permitted to play on outside teams so Bob (Gerwien) and I were part of that Middle Street Boys Club State League championship team. Thanks to our coach, Clayton McGran, that's where we learned the fundamentals - how to box out, how to play defense and it laid the groundwork for us to make in on the varsity level. The Clubs were a hotbed for youth basketball. It was where all the kids played and the best players came from. Our freshman team at Prep included many players from the schools we played against in the Parochial League like Bill Burns, St. Ann; Tony Scippa and Charlie LaChioma, St. Augustine in Bridgeport; and Swing Incerto from St. Mary's in Norwalk. ... All that exposure helped out right away my first varsity game as a sophomore when we played at Ansonia. I went out for the opening jump and was matched up against all-state quarterback Vin Drake. But we weren't intimidated and we won 33-31. Later that season we got the opportunity to play at the Boston Garden where we lost to LaSalle of Newport, R.I. It was the first time for any of us to play out of state. ... Bob (Gerwien) really blossomed as a junior when he grew five inches and grew into a man, very strong, a great rebounder and jump shooter with an amazingly fast first step. He really controlled the boards for us. ... Babe Risley was a year ahead of us and was our best all-around athlete, very smart playing up front although only 6-foot-1. That was a great team my junior year in 1949-50 with Risley in the pivot and captain John Maiocco and Ed Dardani in the backcourt. Fred Lane was also a key player for us, very smart. ... We knew that we were not eligible for the state tournament so we just wanted to beat our local rivals like Harding, Central, Ludlowe and Stratford. We knew most of those players from our early days from the Boys Club, Parochial League or the playgrounds."

Gerwien recalls:
"The good Dominican nuns and priests at Blessed Sacrament really stressed the importance of continuing our Catholic education. Fairfield Prep was at the top of the list because the Jesuits had a great reputation. ... Two of our biggest wins came my junior year in 1950 when we beat Harding for the first time in school history 62-61 in overtime before a capacity crowd on their court as Babe (Risley), Ed Dardani and Gene DeMalt came through with key baskets in overtime. Risley had one of his best games ever with 24 points. We also beat Central 38-36 as Risley hit a "sensational" one-handed buzzer-beater. The Bridgeport Telegram reporter described it as, 'One of the most thrilling games ever played at the Lyon Terrace gym.' Central was loaded with Alvin Clinkscales, Jim Neary, Ernie Petruciano and Gene Bethea. Risley had done the same the previous year in '49 when his last minute basket upset Central 32-30. This came at a time when Harding and Central were winning state and New England championships up in Boston so it was quite an accomplishment. ... Matt Forman from the class of '46 would bring his Holy Cross teammate, Bob Cousy, down to the courts behind Blessed Sacrament during the summer even after they had won the 1947 NCAA tournament. ... One of the problems back then was getting teams to play us because we weren't in a league or sanctioned by the state. We only averaged 15 games a year. ... Mickey "Hooks" Homa (Ludlowe High, Kentucky) was a few years older than us and was playing with the professional Newfield Steelers at the time. He was well-known for his patented hook shot and tried teaching it to me a few times at the Armory, but I could never master it enough to try it in a game. I was a terrible foul shooter and could have averaged several more points a game if I had been able to make a decent percentage. Unfortunately I didn't improve until much later. Even Jackie (O'Connell), who was such a great shooter, couldn't help me."

Prep Football: The Magdon years (1993-2008)

Written by Lou Pintek '72

The appointment of Rich Magdon as head coach in 1993 wasn’t particularly surprising given his long affiliation with the program as an assistant coach. When Lavery decided to hang it up after the 1992 season, Magdon seemed the logical choice to provide the program with the continuity it needed to move forward. Magdon compiled a respectable 96-69-2 record in 16 seasons, but his tenure was not without speedbumps.
His first season was one of on-the-job training, as it were. It was reflected in the team’s 4-5-1 record, its first losing season since 1963. Slowly, the program began to rebound while navigating through an increasingly difficult SCC schedule. Gone were the days of the MBIAC, where the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” was clearly defined. There were fewer bad teams; in fact, most SCC teams were talented and a few extremely so. Magdon compiled a 9-2 record in 1996 and then came two more sub-.500 seasons.

It was in that 1996 season that Magdon had his signature win and the team posted its biggest victory in more than two decades when the then-third-ranked Jesuits snapped nationally ranked and No. 1 Cheshire’s 49-game winning streak on Oct. 4 at Alumni Field.

Running backs Drew Reilly and Jason Wuchiski scored touchdowns in the third quarter to give Prep a 14-0 lead and the defense held on for a 14-6 decision before an estimated 5,000 spectators.

“We told [the team], if we were going to win, we were going to have to make big plays,” Magdon said after that game. “Our kids are confident, not cocky. There’s a difference. They respect the [heck] out of [Cheshire] … but they’re not afraid of anybody.”

“All of the qualities he possessed could be recognized instantly,” all-state tight end Ryan Utzler said about Magdon. “He loved the game, instilled mental and physical toughness in his players, was a comedian, a disciplinarian, but at the same time genuinely cared about your development as a young man. He could tear you a new one for an assignment mistake one minute, but after practice make you laugh hysterically, hug you, and then fire you up to do better tomorrow. It is impossible to pull all of that off simultaneously, but somehow he did it.
“It’s hard to do justice on paper to the Prep football experience and the amazing coaches and teammates, but I appreciated the chance to give it a try, Utzler added. “RIP Coach Mags -- you will be missed dearly.”

SPOTLIGHT: Oct. 4, 1996 (No. 3 Fairfield Prep 14, No. 1 Cheshire 6)

PLAYER PROFILE: Jason Wuchiski ’97

Running back who played all four seasons. … Had 13 carries for 72 yards and scored the decisive touchdown. … He also had a 56-yard kick return in that game. … Won the Mark Masiello Award as team MVP in ’96. … Now a partner for a real estate consulting firm.
Candidly speaking: “The Cheshire game was a really special night. Richie and his staff had us ready to play that game. There was no way we were losing on that night. The lead-up to the game and ultimately our victory was special to be a part of, but I'll tell you this: After we watched film of the game on that Sunday morning he told us, ‘Great win, but don't let it define this team.’ We were only a handful of games into the season and he made sure we regained focus on the next game.”

PLAYER PROFILE: Ryan Utzler ’97 

Two-time all-state and all-SCC and tight end/linebacker. … Earned all-East honors from PrepStar magazine and Prep Football Report. … Had 79 receptions for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons. … Caught 41 balls as a junior. … Also a four-year starter on the baseball team. … Went on to play for Boston College, starting at tight end, fullback and linebacker. … Was the starting fullback for 10 games in his final season, including BC’s Aloha Bowl appearance vs. Arizona State. … Now does business development for Dell EMC.

Candidly speaking: “A key part of any memorable football experience is winning, and Cheshire was flawless in that area for many years. In 1996 [the Rams] came to Prep with a 49-game win streak under their belt. During warmups they rang a very loud, annoying cowbell as they encroached on your side of the field in an attempt to intimidate you. That prompted [Chris] Tymniak to turn around and let them know, ‘That’s enough, it ends tonight!’… We had every right to be intimidated by them given the tremendous track record they earned, but Coach Magdon had us better mentally and physically prepared that night. … When we scored with Wuchiski’s run the confidence grew, and we knew our defense was stout. [Mike] McKelvey, [Nick] Bilotta, [Anthony] DiCocco, [Roland] Newmark, [John] Heffers and [Jesse] Marraffa were very tough against the run -- which was Cheshire’s style. When we were able to grind it out and hold on 14-6, the crowd stormed the field, and that is still my personal favorite football memory to this day. … Being fortunate enough to continue playing until 23 at memorable stadiums, there’s some relative perspective, and while those were great experiences, the job at that stage was to tune out your surroundings and focus. It’s just different and less personal. This is why I appreciate that night against Cheshire more now and can still remember every detail. When the crowd stormed the field at Prep, you were surrounded by family, friends, teammates and classmates -- people that mattered to you.”

Magdon finally got Prep back in the championship conversation in 1999 as the Jesuits went 10-1 and qualified for the CIAC playoffs. However, Greenwich eliminated them handily by a 35-14 count. It took another two-year dropoff before Prep fashioned a 10-1 record in 2002, reeling off 10 straight wins. However, that season ended in heartbreak as eventual state champion West Haven ruined both Prep’s Thanksgiving and its state playoff hopes by beating the Jesuits 29-14.


PLAYER PROFILE: Ed McCarthy ’03 
All-state tight end/defensive end. … Won the Brissette Award as Prep’s top student-athlete in 2003. … Went on to a distinguished college career at Yale, where he played four seasons on the offensive line and was an AP and Walter Camp All-American his senior year. … Also a finalist for the Draddy Award, given to nation’s top scholar-athlete. … Was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2003. … Now practicing law in Shanghai.

Candidly speaking: “Growing up, I worshipped Prep football. Both my dad and my uncle played, and I grew up going to games on Friday nights. I'll never forget watching from the stands when the Ryan Utzler-led team beat Cheshire, breaking their 49-game winning streak. I could not have been more excited to play football at Prep. … I truly loved playing for Prep. Coach Magdon did an amazing job of making us understand how special our experience was. He was our coach, but he was also our friend. Nothing was better than hearing your name called over the loudspeaker being told to leave class, that your presence was required in coach Magdon's office, and then spending the next hour hanging out with Coach and talking about life. … We had a lot of success our senior year, going 10-1. We were greatly aided by the weather. It rained almost every Friday and at that time we still played on grass, so the field was always a mudpit. This played to our strengths, as we had a huge offense line led by Tom Bourdeau (I played tight end), and a great stable of backs including Kevin Ryan, Shaun Hunte and Andrew Urquhart. Our biggest win was against ND-West Haven, [which] at the time was undefeated and coming off a state championship from the previous year. We were undefeated heading into our Thanksgiving Day game with West Haven, which we sadly lost and missed out on the LL playoffs. While we came up short, Coach Magdon's wisdom and numerous aphorisms still have an impact on me. One that I loved was, ‘A loser makes an excuse, and a winner finds a solution.’ Words to live by!”

PLAYER PROFILE: Andrew Urquhart ’04 

All-state fullback/linebacker. … Currently resides in Boston with his wife and daughter.

Candidly speaking: “Richie was a great man and I have a lot of fond memories of playing for him at Prep. … I will always remember Coach Magdon for the way that he cared about all his players. … Winning and losing were important, but he did not put winning above all. He had a great understanding and perspective of what high school football was, which ironically probably contributed to his success. When a player got hurt, he always walked out onto the field to check on [him]. … I wouldn't classify Coach Magdon as an Xs and Os coach, but he got the best out of his players because he had our respect and love and [we] would run through a wall for him. … Out of all the coaches and teams I have played for, Rich Magdon and Fairfield Prep football are two of my fondest and proudest.”

It was a strange year in 2003. Prep had its most explosive offense ever, setting school records for points in a game (75) and in a season (369). But two losses – 9-7 to Xavier and another lopsided defeat to West Haven on Thanksgiving – prematurely ended the Jesuits’ season at 9-2.
The quirky part of Magdon’s tenure was that after a really good season, there was usually a down year or two before another strong one emerged. Such was the case in 2006. Prep went 9-3, qualified for the state playoffs but was whitewashed by Greenwich in the Class LL semifinals.

Prep went against form the following season by going 8-2 and ending a six-game losing streak to West Haven in the process. But it wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs. It also proved to be Magdon’s last hurrah, as he retired the following year after a 3-7 record.

Prep football: Pinto to the present (2009-2015)

In a surprise to many, the school hired Bill Pinto as Magdon’s replacement, and he lasted just one forgettable 0-10 season in 2009 as the Jesuits went winless for only the second time in their history (0-6-1 in 1943). Pinto was let go and Prep turned to former player Tom Shea '73 to help resuscitate the program.

Like Magdon before him, it took a while for Shea to lay the appropriate groundwork. In his second season he got Prep to .500; by his fourth, Prep was back in the state playoffs. The 2013 team finished 11-3, beat West Haven in the semifinals but lost convincingly to Southington in the Class LL championship game. Shea stepped down the following year after a 7-4 record, winding up 32-23 in five seasons.

Shea has stayed on as an assistant under current coach Keith Hellstern, who debuted at 5-5 in 2015 and finished 6-4 this past season. Perhaps Hellstern is laying the foundation for more Prep memories. Only time – and talent – will tell.