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Championship Coaches, Veteran Broadcaster To Receive Prestigious Gold Keys

Connecticut Sports Media Alliance Will Award Gold Keys at 82nd Annual Dinner in October

SOUTHINGTON, Conn., March 5, 2024 — Four championship coaches and a pioneering sportscaster will be honored this fall with one of the most prestigious awards in Connecticut sports, as 2024 recipients of the Gold Key Award from the Connecticut Sports Media Alliance (CSMA).

The honorees are former Daniel Hand and Yale University football coach Larry Ciotti, longtime Windham High School wrestling and football coach Brian Crudden, retired Pomperaug High School field hockey coach Linda Dirga, award-winning sportscaster George Grande and Wesleyan University women’s basketball coach Kate Mullen. They will be feted at the 82nd Gold Key Dinner on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2024 at the Aqua Turf Club in the Plantsville section of Southington.

Tickets for the Gold Key Dinner are $75, and are available by contacting CSMA president Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp. at 860-394-5091 or Proceeds support the Bo Kolinsky Memorial Sports Media Scholarship, a $3,000 annual award named in memory of the noted high school sports editor of the Hartford Courant and past CSMA president, who passed away in 2003 at age 49.

Here is a brief look at the Class of 2024.

LARRY CIOTTI – A 1966 graduate of Southern Connecticut State College, captained the 1965 team while earning All-New England and All-Eastern honors. Founded Daniel Hand High School football program in 1970; led Tigers to Class M state championships in 1976, 1977, 1982 and 1984, as well as championship game appearances in 1980, 1981 and 1983. Compiled 141-41-2 record, a .772 winning percentage. Full-time assistant football coach at Yale University from 1991 to 2008, and 2012 to 2015. Inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993, and Southern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. Received Walter Camp Football Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Resides in Madison.

BRIAN CRUDDEN – Windham High School wrestling coach, 1977-1998, and football coach, 1985-2015. Wrestling squads won 1992 New England High School Wrestling Championships, Class L titles in 1983, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994, and Class M crown in 1985. Connecticut High School Coaches Association Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1993; inducted into the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003. Two football championship game appearances, 5-time playoff qualifier, Connecticut High School Coaches Association Football Coach of the Year in 2011. Elected to Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Earned 543 career victories, including 371 in wrestling. Resides in Columbia.

LINDA DIRGA — Graduated Arnold College (University of Bridgeport). Pomperaug High School field hockey coach, 1985-2010, winning state championships in four different decades: Class M in 1989, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, and Class L in 2002, 2003 and 2010. State runner-up seven times, won 19 conference championships and had a 43-game winning streak in 2002-2003. National High School Athletic Coaches Association field hockey coach of the year in 2007. Officiated state championship contests ion field hockey and basketball. Founding member of Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999; has been inducted into five halls of fame, including National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2011 and National Field Hockey Coaches Association in 2012. Resides in New Britain.

GEORGE GRANDE — Grew up in Hamden, attended the Gunnery School and Hopkins Prep. Member of the 1964-65 undefeated Hopkins football team, and was a member of the first class inducted into the Gunnery Sports Hall of Fame. Played baseball for four years at the University of Southern California, winning a national championship in 1968. Became a sportscaster, interning with Hall of Famer Vin Scully, and worked at various stations around the country, including WNHC and WTNH in New Haven. First anchor for ESPN Sportscenter in 1979, then became sports director. From 1980 to 2010, he emceed the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony and weekend events in Cooperstown, N.Y. Broadcast baseball games for the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals before a 30-year stint with the Cincinnati Reds. Resides in Hamden.

KATE MULLEN — Graduated from Enfield High School in 1974 after captaining field hockey, basketball and softball teams. Played those three sports at Central Connecticut State College, captaining the field hockey and basketball squads. Coached women’s basketball at Westfield State College from 1981 to 1985 and Elms College from 1985 to 1992, before taking over the program at Wesleyan University in 1992. Has amassed 496 victories as a college coach, earning NESCAC Coach of the Year honors in 2002-03. Led the Cardinals to consecutive NCAA Div. III tournament appearances, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2005. Inducted into the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Also serves as associate athletic director at Wesleyan. Resides in Windsor.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Contact Tim Jensen, CSMA president,, 860-394-5091 (Photos courtesy of Connecticut Sports Media Alliance)


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