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Gold Key winner Jake Salafia has passed away

Joseph “Jake” Salafia, the longtime basketball coach at Cromwell High and a Gold Key recipient from the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance in 2005, died on January 5, 2021. He was 92.

Salafia led Cromwell to seven Class S championships in basketball, including five straight from 1967-71. The Panthers also won Class S titles in 1979 and 1980. Cromwell advanced to the finals 11 times in his career.

In 2005, Salifia recalled that he was hired as the varsity basketball coach on an interim basis but the previous coach never came back after a leave of absence.

Salafia coached the Panther basketball team from 1961-62 through 1985-86 and had a career record of 445-119. He coached 15 All-State athletes in basketball, including Al Weston, a four-time All-State player who went onto play at UConn in the early 1970s.

"I was very fortunate," Salafia said in 2005. "I had outstanding athletes. Once a program starts winning, it starts getting numbers. That enables a coach to find more and more talent."

He also coached Cromwell’s boys cross country teams from 1958-86, winning seven state titles. He also led the Panthers to a state title in outdoor track and field in 1970. Salafia was the athletic director at Cromwell High from 1967-92. He also coached tennis and volleyball at the school, which named the gymnasium in his honor.

In the 1969-70 season was one to remember. He led Cromwell’s boys cross country, boys basketball and boys track teams to state championships in that same school year.

Salafia played football, basketball and track at Woodrow Wilson High in Middletown. He played for the legendary Dan Chubbuck in basketball and track at Wilson. Salafia was co-captain of Wilson’s 1946 football squad that claimed a state title. After competing military service, Salafia competed in football and track at Central Connecticut State.

“I had made up my mind that college and teaching was what I wanted, “ Salafia told the Hartford Courant’s Bo Kolinsky in 1984 when he won his 400th career game. “At Woodrow Wilson, I played for Dan Chubbuck and he made a very big impression on me. He was a very positive person and made people feel good about themselves.”

Getting the Gold Key from the Alliance meant a lot to Salafia. "A Gold Key is a tremendous honor, a humbling experience," he said in 2005.

Salafia was also inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame (1997), Central Connecticut State’s Athletic Hall of Fame (2007), the National High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame (2015) and the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame (1986).


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