Im­mac­u­late High grad Palmer to re­ceive Gold Key

The News-Times - - SPORTS - Staff re­ports

The Con­necti­cut Sports Writ­ers’ Al­liance on Fri­day an­nounced its five Gold Key Award re­cip­i­ents, who will be hon­ored at the Al­liance’s

78th-an­nual Gold Key Din­ner, set for April 28, 2019, at the Aqua Turf Club in Southing­ton.

For­mer NBA play­ers Chris Smith and John Ba­gley, St. Thomas More boys bas­ket­ball coach Jere Quinn, Su­per Bowl cham­pion as­sis­tant coach Chris Palmer and ESPN founder Bill Ras­mussen will com­prise the Class of 2019.

Palmer, 69, is a for­mer quar­ter­back at Im­mac­u­late High School in Dan­bury and South­ern Con­necti­cut State in New Haven who spent 22 years as an as­sis­tant coach in the NFL, plus two sea­sons as head coach of the “ex­pan­sion” Cleve­land Browns in 1999 and

2000, af­ter the orig­i­nal fran­chise moved to Bal­ti­more. His ca­reer high­light was as quar­ter­backs coach for the New York Giants, with whom he earned a Su­per Bowl ring in 2008 as the Giants up­set the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, 17-14 in Su­per Bowl XLII. His pro­tégé, Eli Man­ning, earned Su­per Bowl MVP hon­ors in that vic­tory. He is cur­rently ath­letic di­rec­tor at the Univer­sity of New Haven.

Ba­gley, 58, was part of two Class L state cham­pi­onship boys bas­ket­ball teams at War­ren Hard­ing High School in Bridge­port be­fore head­ing to Bos­ton Col­lege. He earned Big East Player of the Year hon­ors in

1981, was a third-team All-Amer­i­can in 1982 and was the 12th over­all se­lec­tion in the first round of the 1982 NBA draft by the Cleve­land Cava­liers, em­bark­ing on an

11-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer with Cleve­land (1982-87), the New Jersey Nets (198789), Bos­ton Celtics (1989-93) and At­lanta Hawks (199394). He re­turned to coach the boys bas­ket­ball team at Hard­ing in 2017.

Quinn, 63, grad­u­ated from Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State Col­lege in New Bri­tain in 1977, serv­ing as bas­ket­ball cap­tain his fi­nal two years. He still holds the school record with 227 as­sists in 1975-76. He was hired as boys bas­ket­ball coach at St. Thomas More School in Oak­dale, and has never fin­ished be­low .500 in 40 sea­sons. More than

250 of his play­ers have earned col­lege schol­ar­ships, and more than 50 have played pro­fes­sion­ally, in­clud­ing five in the NBA. On Jan. 24, 2018, he col­lected ca­reer win No. 1,000 at Worces­ter Academy. His teams have won the 2011 Na­tional Prep School cham­pi­onship and five New Eng­land cham­pi­onships, as well as 16 other New Eng­land fi­nals and two other na­tional fi­nals.

Smith, 48, grad­u­ated in

1988 from Kolbe Cathe­dral High School in Bridge­port, where the Cougars won the Class M state boys bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship in 1985 and placed sec­ond in 1987. He stayed in-state to at­tend UConn, where he re­mains the all-time men’s bas­ket­ball scor­ing leader with

2,145 points, av­er­ag­ing 16.9 points per game. As a sopho­more in 1989-90, he was the Big East Tour­na­ment MVP, lead­ing the Huskies to the Elite 8, and he was a first-team All-Big East se­lec­tion in 1992. He was a mem­ber of the U.S. na­tional team that won a sil­ver medal at the 1990 Good­will Games and bronze at the FIBA World Cham­pi­onships the same year. He was drafted in the sec­ond round by the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves in

1992, and played with them for three sea­sons. He played six more years pro­fes­sion­ally in the CBA and Europe be­fore re­tir­ing in

2000, and he was named to the UConn Bas­ket­ball All-Cen­tury Team.

Ras­mussen, 86, had been com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor and a broad­caster for the New Eng­land Whalers of the World Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion for four years when he and most of the front of­fice staff were fired fol­low­ing the 1977-78 sea­son. Con­tem­plat­ing his fu­ture with his son, Scott, the then-En­field res­i­dent came up with a novel con­cept: an all-sports net­work in the bur­geon­ing cable tele­vi­sion in­dus­try. On July 14, 1978, the En­ter­tain­ment and Sports Pro­gram­ming Net­work (ESPN) was in­cor­po­rated, and the net­work launched on Sept.

7, 1979, go­ing on to be­come the global leader in sports pro­gram­ming. Sports Il­lus­trated rec­og­nized Ras­mussen’s sig­nif­i­cance in the sport­ing land­scape in 1994, plac­ing him 29th on a list of “Forty For the Ages,” a rank­ing of the “40 in­di­vid­u­als who have most sig­nif­i­cantly al­tered or el­e­vated the world of sports in the last four decades.” Ras­mussen ranked higher than leg­ends such as Pele (30), Bobby Orr (31), Sugar Ray Leonard (32), Nolan Ryan

(34), Peggy Flem­ing (35) and Julius Erv­ing (40).

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.

Tick­ets to the Gold Key Din­ner are $75 apiece, and may be re­served by con­tact­ing CSWA Pres­i­dent Tim Jensen of Patch Me­dia Corp. at tim.jensen@patch.com or 860-3945091, or Vice Pres­i­dent Rich Gre­gory of The News-Times at rgre­gory@new­stimes.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.

Chris Palmer

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