Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance selects five to receive Gold Keys
A pair of outstanding athletes and three remarkable coaches have been selected to receive the prestigious Gold Key Award by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.
PGA golf professional Dennis Coscina, retired Granby Memorial High School field hockey coach Dot Johnson, New Canaan High School football coach Lou Marinelli, UConn women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris and Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Gretchen Ulion-Silverman will comprise the Class of 2018, which will be honored at the 77th annual Gold Key Dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on Sunday, April 29, 2018.
The Gold Key Dinner was inaugurated in 1940, with baseball legend Connie Mack and golf superstar Bobby Jones among the initial recipients. The roster of honorees since then reads like a Who’s Who of Connecticut sports – Joe Cronin, Julius Boros, Willie Pep, Andy Robustelli, Lindy Remigino, Floyd Little, Joan Joyce, Carmen Cozza, Otto Graham, Calvin Murphy, Joe Morrone, Gordie Howe, Bill Rodgers, Tony DiCicco, Geno Auriemma, Rebecca Lobo, Brian Leetch, Kristine Lilly, Marlon Starling and Dwight Freeney are just a few of the past Gold Key winners. A complete list is available at www.ctsportswriters.com.
Tickets to the Gold Key Dinner are $75 apiece, and may be reserved by contacting CSWA President Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-394-5091, or Vice President Rich Gregory of the Danbury News-Times at email@example.com or 203-705-8625.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Bo Kolinsky Journalism Scholarship, named after a longtime Hartford Courant sportswriter and past CSWA president who died unexpectedly in 2003. Here is a look at the honorees from the Class of 2018:
One of the charter members of the Connecticut PGA Hall of Fame in 2008, Dennis Coscina has experienced tremendous success in his five decades as a PGA professional. The 1963 graduate of Pulaski High School in New Britain and longtime resident of East Windsor won eight PGA Sectional championships between 1975 and 1994, and was named CT Section PGA Player of the Year on six occasions and CT Section PGA Senior Player of the Year twice.
He played in seven major championships – three PGA Championships, two U.S. Opens, the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. In 1979, he made the cut in the PGA Championship, tying for 73rd place at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan.
Between 1980 and 1995, he played seven times in the Greater Hartford Open, a PGA TOUR event now known as the Travelers Championship. After turning 50 in 1995, he played the next two seasons on the PGA Senior Tour (now the Champions Tour), earning a total of $137,253.
He has captained the professional team in the Julius Boros Challenge Cup competition since 2011, leading the pro squad to a 6-1 record against the state’s top amateurs.
Among his other accolades are induction into the Connecticut Golf Association and New Britain Sports Halls of Fame.
When Connecticut high school field hockey first played a state tournament in 1973, there was just an open division, and little Granby Memorial High School knocked off Guilford, 2-1, to claim the state’s first field hockey title. The following year, coach Dot Johnson led the Bears to the Class M championship, then five Class S crowns followed in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1985 and 2000.
Johnson guided the Bears for 34 years, retiring following the 2002 season with four state runner-up finishes in additional to her seven state titles. She compiled a 393-83-80 record, a .779 winning percentage.
A member of the 1978 championship squad, Sandy Wickman Mason, succeeded Johnson and has won six more state championships, giving the Bears a total of 13, more than any field hockey program in Connecticut history.
Among the numerous honors Johnson has received over the years include induction into four halls of fame (Connecticut High School Coaches Association, 1992; New Agenda Northeast, 1996; National Field Hockey coaches Association, 2005; Connecticut Field Hockey, 2005).
She was a three-time Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year, the 1996 National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and was presented the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the Year Award by the CSWA at the 2001 Gold Key Dinner.
Johnson is, indeed, the matriarch of the sport in the Nutmeg State.
Lou Marinelli, who became the state’s all-time winningest high school football coach in September, is in his 39th season coaching high school football, and New Canaan’s 42-7 win over Danbury on Sept. 15 was his record-breaking 332nd career win. He had entered the 2017 season tied with former West Haven coach Ed McCarthy, a 2014 Gold Key recipient, for the most wins by a Connecticut high school football coach.
As of Oct. 22, Marinelli’s overall record is 335-102-7, a .762 winning percentage. His first 19 victories came in New York state, where he went 4-4 in his one and only season at Mamaroneck High School in 1977, followed by a 15-3-1 mark in two seasons at Yorktown High.
Marinelli arrived in New Canaan in 1981, inheriting a team that had struggled through three straight winless seasons, going 0-25-2 during that time. He promptly led the Rams to a 4-5 mark in his first season.
That would turn out to be his only losing season in New Canaan. In fact, in only his second season, Marinelli guided the Rams to an 8-2 record and the 1982 Class L-II state championship.
He would win 11 more state crowns, adding titles in 1993, 2001, 2002, four in a row from 2006-2009 and another four straight from 2013-2016. He has led the Rams to 12 straight CIAC state playoff berths, reaching the state final on 10 occasions. His current record at New Canaan is 315-95-6.
Under Marinelli, New Canaan has also won five FCIAC championships, and he has been named FCIAC Coach of the Year six times. He was also named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Connecticut Coach of the Year (2008), the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year (2002) and the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance ‘Doc’ McInerney Coach of the Year in 2008.
Marinelli, a National Coach of the Year finalist in 2007 and 2010, was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Leonidas “Len” Tsantiris was mentored by the best during his college soccer days at UConn, playing for legendary head coach and 1988 Gold Key Award recipient Joe Morrone. After a brief professional career with the Connecticut Yankees of the American Soccer League, he turned to coaching.
He began scholastically, guiding the E.O. Smith High School girls soccer program to victories in the first two state tournaments in 1980 and 1981. The Panthers ran up a then-state record streak of 56 games without a loss.
Tsantiris then moved next door to his college alma mater, where he remains 36 years later as head coach of the UConn women’s soccer program. Entering the 2017 season, his teams have compiled a 563-192-56 record, for a .729 winning percentage.
The Huskies have made 29 NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure, reaching the national championship game in 1984, 1990, 1997 and 2003. In 2012, he became just the second collegiate women’s soccer coach to attain the 500 victory plateau.
In 2012, Tsantiris was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, the largest Greek-American fraternal organization which includes notables such as tennis star Pete Sampras, football star Alex Karras and broadcaster Bob Costas.
Women’s ice hockey became a medal sport at the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, and in the very first gold medal game ever played, the United States upset Canada 3-1. The first goal in that game was scored by Gretchen Ulion, a Marlborough resident and 1990 graduate of Loomis Chaffee School who wound up tying for the team lead in scoring during that Olympiad with eight points (three goals, five assists).
Ulion, a member of the U.S. women’s national team from 1993 to 1998, carried some impressive credentials into those Olympic Games. At Dartmouth College, she established school records in career goals (189) and points (312), and to date holds the top four single-season goal totals in Big Green history – 49 (1991 and 1994), 46 (1992) and 45 (1993). She was 2-time Ivy League Player of the Year and league Rookie of the Year in 1990. Dartmouth won two Ivy League championships during her tenure there.
The U.S. women’s national team captured silver medals at the 1994 and 1997 World Championships, before bursting onto the world stage with the Olympic gold. The team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ulion, now known as Gretchen Silverman, has been head coach of the girls ice hockey program at the Taft School in Watertown since 2013.
Since 1939, members of the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance have been chronicling and sharing the exploits of Connecticut athletes with the citizens of the Nutmeg State. The Alliance began as a group of newspaper sportswriters but over the last 77 years, the Alliance has evolved to include sportswriters, television and radio broadcasters, photographers and online journalists.
Our mission is to perpetuate the craft of sports journalism through our financial aid/scholarship program for high school seniors who intend to pursue a career in sports journalism while honoring those who have enriched the sports landscape in Connecticut. Proceeds from the Gold Key dinner help fund our scholarship program.
Contact: Tim Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-394-5091