East Haven’s winningest-ever high school coach, Frank Crisafi, figures prominently in Don Harrison’s new book, "Hoops In Connecticut: The Nutmeg State’s Passion For Basketball."
Harrison, a longtime newspaper sports writer and sports editor, graduated from East Haven High School in 1957 when Crisafi coached the varsity football, basketball and baseball teams, served as athletic director and taught gym classes.
In five seasons between when Harrison was in the 8th grade through high school, Crisafi’s basketball team racked up a record of 118 wins and five losses.
Harrison said during that period, the East Haven team also won three state titles, one New England championship, and had a state-record 77-game winning streak.
Back then, Harrison lived on French Avenue, right near the high school, which was located on Tyler Street. He now lives in Fairfield.
Harrison said he reminisces in "Hoops In Connecticut" how Connecticut is a "hotbed" of basketball. It allowed him to recall his formative years in East Haven.
One of his East Haven High School classmates, Ralph Paolillo, was a star player. Harrison said Paolillo was named to the New Haven Register’s All-State Team two years in a row, 1956 and 1957. He went on to star for St. Anselm College, a good Division 2 school in New Hampshire.
"He is a legend in East Haven," said Harrison.
When Paolillo died in January 2010, Harrison visited Crisafi, who still lives in East Haven, and wrote a tribute to Paolillo for The New Haven Register.
Harrison started in the newspaper business as a copy boy at the New York Mirror in 1960. He was promoted to the sports desk in 1962 as a copy editor until the paper folded in 1963.
He worked for several years for the Waterbury Republican until he was recruited by the New Haven Journal Courier in 1966 as a sports copy editor and columnist. He got to cover the 1966 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Republican lured him back in 1967 by making him the sports editor.
"Hoops In Connecticut" was published on Nov. 8 by The History Press in Charleston, South Carolina, and is available in paperback at bookstores and online.
Corrections: This story was modified on Dec. 12 with a couple corrections. The tribute to Ralph Paolillo was published in the New Haven Register, not the New York Times. Steve Narracci is not mentioned in the book, as was previously reported.