The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Pfohls a basketball family that puts family first
If there ever was a shred of doubt that the Pfohl family introduces its progeny to basketball early, we present photographic evidence from March 2 at Bridgeport Hospital.
In his basinet there is one-day-old Shane John McGowan, named after his grandfather John Pfohl, tuned into the SWC finals on an iPad.
“Here’s your first grandson,” middle daughter Alexa McGowan told her dad before the game. “The only thing he wants is for you to win the SWC championship.”
Poppy took home the title with Kolbe Cathedral’s 68-45 victory over Notre Dame-Fairfield.
“We’re 1-0 with Shane,” said J.J. Pfohl, who assists his dad. “We’ve got to ride that while we can.”
Kolbe will face Hillhouse in the CIAC Division I tournament Wednesday at Fairfield Warde. So it goes with one of the great basketball families in Connecticut. The torch is passed.
John Pfohl had won 317 games, nine SWC titles and two state championships between 1993 and 2008 at Kolbe when he announced his retirement. At 43, he wasn’t burned out. He certainly hadn’t stopped winning. The Cougars had just been to the state finals.
John and Dawn, an avid runner like her husband, also had three daughters, Victoria, Alexa and Amanda, and a son J.J. who played basketball.
“When you have four children so close in age, all involved in athletics, there is time when you realize you’re either going to miss them play, they’ll have to play for you, or you have to make a decision to watch them,” John Pfohl said.
When Victoria, now 28, was a freshman at Trumbull, Pfohl made the decision to watch. He did not return to coaching Kolbe until after J.J. completed his career at Trumbull in 2017. Nine years.
“My kids sacrificed, my wife sacrificed a lot for coaching up to that point,” John said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. There’s no do-over. I realized that from coaching my players for four years. I wanted to savor every second of them playing. I do not regret it for one second.”
All three girls were first-team All-State at Trumbull. Amanda was All-State twice. Alexa was Academic All-State. When Victoria was a senior, the three were teammates.
“My father is a very unselfish person,” said Victoria DiScala, who has a 17month daughter Adeline with her husband Vinny and another daughter due on May 1. “It was important for him to support us. I don’t think he would have traded watching all three of us playing together for the world.”
“To be willing to retire from something he was so passionate about and loved to come watch us,” Alexa said, “you couldn’t ask for a better father.”
The sisters had a pregame ritual.
“We’d each have to give him a hug and a kiss before we warmed up,” Alexa said.
Victoria? Typical first born, dad said. Leader. Bright. Driven. Organized. Has a fire in her. Also, a beautiful heart.
Alexa? His best athlete. Three-sport captain. Fearless defensive player. Tough. A sweetheart off the court, but would make you cry on the court if she was guarding you.
Amanda? Probably the best skill-wise. Terrific shooter. Best shooter in the family.
The sisters remain very close. And little bro?
“J.J. is great,” Victoria said. “He’ll say they feel sorry for him, but he’s really the king of the household. He’s the best.”
Victoria followed her dad’s footsteps to play at Eastern Connecticut. Amanda played at Southern Connecticut and set the school record with 99 threes in a season. J.J., who went on to play at Roger Williams, was secondteam Class LL All-State at Trumbull.
“We were always No. 1 in his life,” Amanda said. “He knew he couldn’t be 100 percent committed to both. If it came down to basketball or family, he’s always going to pick family. That shows you his values.”
“When I was younger, I didn’t really understand why it was such a big deal