The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance honored Doc Hurley (Weaver-Hartford administrator), Jim O'Neill (New London, Waterford administrator), Charlie Bentley (Warren Harding-Bridgeport boys basketball coach) and Deborah Chin (University of New Haven Director of Athletics) with the Gold Key Award at the 66th Gold Key Dinner on April 22, 2007, at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.
The Gold Key Award is the highest sports honor in Connecticut as the Alliance recognizes those who have made significant contributions to athletics in Connecticut. Past award recipients include baseball great Connie Mack, boxing legend Willie Pep and former President George H. W. Bush.
Last year's award winners were former NHL All-Star Ron Francis, NBA player Charles Smith, East Lyme softball coach Judy Deeb and Masuk-Monroe girls basketball coach Dave Strong.
About this year's recipients:
Walter "Doc" Hurley is a 1941 graduate of Weaver High and was a four-sport star before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He played professional football in the 1940s for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the All-American football conference.
Hurley was a graduate of Virginia State University and was a successful track and football coach in Virginia before coming back to Hartford as a teacher in 1959. He served in the Hartford school system for 25 years, the last 20 as vice-principal of Weaver High School before retiring in 1984.
An accomplished basketball official, Hurley organized the Doc Hurley Scholarship Basketball Classic in to help provide "book money" for area students. Thirty two years later the basketball tournament has grown into a full scholarship organization. Over the last 32 years the Doc Hurley Scholarship Foundation has awarded nearly $500,000 to students in the Greater Hartford area.
Athletic prowess isn't a requirement for the scholarship with academic achievement, financial need, community service and an essay written by each candidate the criteria.Hurley is 84-years-old and lives in Hartford. He was married to his late wife Gwendolyn for 56 years and has two daughters Jeanne Costley and Muriel Hurley-Carter and a late son Walter Hurley, Jr.
Deborah Chin has been both a coach and pioneer for women's sports at the University of New Haven, has served as Director of Athletics since 1993, and has been one of the most active athletic administrators in the Northeast.
Chin, a 1968 graduate of SUNY-Corland, came to New Haven as coordinator of women's athletics, responsible for building athletic programs for women, including four that she coached: volleyball, basketball, tennis and softball.In 1979 she was promoted to Associate Director of Athletics, stepping down as coach of basketball, tennis and softball.
Internationally known for her clinician skills in volleyball, Chin was a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame class of 2006. She was 576-178 (.764) in 19 seasons as coach at New Haven (1975-93). At the time of her retirement, her winning percentage was ranked among the top five all-time. She led the Chargers to 10 NCAA Division II tournaments (and three AIAW tournaments), and New Haven was ranked in the top five four times.
Chin's teams won 30 or more matches 12 times, including six straight years. Six times she was named Northeast Region coach of the year, and eight times she was named New England College Conference coach of the year.In 10 of her final 11 seasons, Chin led the Chargers to at least the Sweet Sixteen, including four trips to the Elite Eight. She has also served as an official at the national level numerous times.
Chin served as commissioner for volleyball for the 1995 Special Olympics World Games held in New Haven, and has served as chairperson for NCAA Division II volleyball committee, NCAA Division II baseball committee, and the NCAA Northeast Regional football committee. Chin was the Northeast athletic director of the year in 1998-99, the Connecticut Post Woman of the Year in 1993 and is a member of both the Connecticut Women's Basketball and Connecticut Volleyball halls of fame. She oversees 17 athletic programs at New Haven.
Jim O'Neill was an educator, administrator and coach for 37 years in the New London and Waterford school systems. He's best known throughout Connecticut as one of the best summer baseball coaches in state history, leading New London American Legion to 14 Zone championships, three state titles and two trips to the American Legion World Series. O'Neill's teams also won multiple sportsmanship awards at state and regional tournaments.
O'Neill was the athletic director at New London High school for seven years and for seven more at Waterford High, overseeing a combined 11 state championships and 70 Eastern Connecticut Conference titles. He was also the point man for ECC expansion and realignment, that split the conference into enrollment-based divisions and schedules.
O'Neill was a teacher for 30 years in the New London school system, also running the high school's gifted and talented program. He earned a reputation for balancing academics and athletics. O'Neill and his wife, Dorian, a teacher in Groton, live in New London.
Charlie Bentley is one of the most successful basketball coaches in Connecticut history in a 29 year career as Warren Harding-Bridgeport boys basketball coach. Bentley is one of seven Connecticut boys basketball coaches with 500 or more career wins and has won nine state title in his career including five straight from 1983-1987. He is closing in on 600 wins in his career and has one of the top teams in the state again this season and has won five FCIAC titles.
In his coaching career he has produced over a dozen all-state players including a pair of NBA players in Charles Smith and John Bagley. He was named 1988 Coach of the Year by the Connecticut Sportswriters' Alliance.
Bentley was a standout player at Bullard Havens-Bridgeport, graduating in 1969 and was a four year starter at Central Methodist College in Missouri. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Education. He currently serves as Dean of Students at Harding. Bentley's wife Jeanella is a volleyball coach at Harding. He has two sons in Charlie Jr. and Charoy and a daughter, Chanella.