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Hall of Famer Gene Reilly Passes Away

Hall of Famer Gene Reilly Passes Away

Central Connecticut Hall of Famer and two sport standout Eugene Reilly passed away on Sunday, April 13, 2014.  Reilly was inducted into the CCSU Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame in its inaugural year in 1979.  He was an All-American men's basketball and baseball player for the Blue Devils who helped lead the nationally ranked men's basketball team during his tenure in New Britain, and was also signed to a contract with the San Francisco Giants.  Reilly's accolades at CCSC (it was Central Connecticut State College at the time) were numerous and his impact on the Blue Devils has been lasting.  He remains among the school's all-time leaders in points scored and was a team captain in 1965-66.   He was awarded the Frederick M. Gladstone Award in 1966 as the top male student-athlete at CCSC.

"The CCSU family was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Gene Reilly," Director of Athletics Paul Schlickmann said.  "Many alumni tell me he was one of the finest student-athletes to ever grace our fields in a Blue Devil uniform.  Gene was part of an iconic Connecticut basketball family and certainly left an indelible mark as a high school coach, educator and mentor to countless young men throughout his remarkable career.   We are proud to call him one of our own and all those close to him will miss him dearly.  Our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with his family at this difficult time."

Eugene M. Reilly, 70, husband of Mary (Bourke) Reilly, of Charlestown RI, passed away on April 13, 2014 at RI Hospital. He was born in Hartford, son of the late Joseph and Lavina (Gaudet) Reilly and graduated from Bulkeley High School and Central Connecticut State College. Gene played basketball and baseball for CCSC and in 1966 led the nation in foul shooting and was an All-American for the nationally ranked Blue Devils.He was also an All-American in baseball and signed with the San Francisco Giants as a pitcher. After two years in the Giants organization, Gene was drafted into the US Army where he spent a tour of duty in Vietnam. Upon returning, he taught and coached basketball and baseball for 2 years South Catholic High School and 35 years at Portland High School. His teams won state championships in both basketball in 1982 and baseball in 1988. He was selected Coach of the Year in Middlesex County (1976 and 1995) and Connecticut High School Coaches Association Basketball Coach of the Year in 1998. He is a charter member of the Central Connecticut Hall of Fame and a member of the Twilight League Hall of Fame. Gene has received numerous awards including being selected to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sportswriters Association and induction into the New England Hall of Fame. Gene was also a member of the BPOE Lodge # 771, Middletown, CT. Besides his wife, he is survived by his brothers Robert (Jane) Reilly and Donald Reilly; his sisters Beverly Strout, Joan (Lewis) Compson, and Mary Ellen (Roger) Fortier; his sisters-in- law Teresa (Joseph) Reilly, and Eleanor (Richard) Reilly. He was predeceased by his brothers John Reilly, Richard Reilly, and Joseph Reilly; sisters Elizabeth and her husband Russell Stocinis and Margaret Reilly; brother-in-law Clayton (Beverly) Strout. Friends may call April 15, 2014 from 4:00 to 7:00 at the Farley-Sullivan Funeral Home, 34 Beaver Rd. Wethersfield, CT 06109. A Mass of Christian Burial celebrating Gene's life will be held April 16, 2014 at 10:00 am in Corpus Christi Church, 601 Silas Deane Hwy, Wethersfield, CT 06109. All are asked to go directly to church. Burial will follow in Mount St. Benedict Cemetery, 1 Cottage Grove Rd., Bloomfield, CT 06002. There will also be a Mass for Gene in St. James Church, Charlestown RI at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to CCSU Athletics, 1615 Stanley St., New Britain, CT 06050. To extend online condolences, share a memory or to light a candle, please visit Farleysullivan.com.

The following was written by Bart Fisher several years ago for the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance Gold Key Dinner:

By Bart Fisher- The Herald of New Britain

A lot of the guys with whom Gene Reilly served in the fabled 199th Light Infantry Brigade learned about courage and discipline in terrifying places 10,000 miles from home with names like Long Binh, Ben Wah and Xuan Loc.

Reilly took courage and discipline into combat with him.

While he doesn't talk much about his service in Vietnam or the medals he won, Reilly says quite seriously that the toughest disciplinarian he ever faced was not some hard-case drill sergeant or gung-ho platoon leader, but Lou Bazzano, his high school basketball coach at Bulkeley High in Hartford.

"With Mr. Bazzano, everything was about discipline and doing things a certain way," Reilly says. "Whether it was how you laced up your sneakers or the way you were expected to dress for an away game, you did it his way or you didn't do it all. He was a great coach!"

Bazzano was also a coach whose teams were noted for their fine free-throw shooting.

"Coach Bazzano used to tell us if you can make one, you should be able to make two; if you can make two, you can make three; if you hit that third one …," Reilly recalls. He took that message to heart. He still owns the CIAC record for consecutive free throws made (30) in tournament play.

At Central Connecticut State, where he played for Bill Detrick, Reilly led the nation in foul shooting for the nationally ranked 1966 Blue Devils and earned All-America honors.

Much of his coaching philosophy came from Detrick, who, he says, "always put his players in a position where they could succeed. That's what great coaching is all about."

Reilly also played baseball for Hank Majlinger at Central, well enough to earn all-America honors and be signed as a pitcher by the San Francisco Giants. He spent two years in the Giants' organization in such garden spots as Decatur, Ill., and Medford, Ore., before the U.S. Army sent "Greetings."

Gene came back from Vietnam older, wiser and still blessed with a sneaky quick fastball and a devastating curve. But the Double-A team in Amarillo, Texas, where he was assigned, had pretty much already been picked, and the Giants wanted him to go back to Class A, at least for a while. "I was 26. That's not an age where you want to start all over again," he says.

So Reilly started some-thing else: coaching.

He began his coaching career as an assistant to his older brother Joe at South Catholic in Hartford but quickly moved on to Portland High, where he has coached basketball for the past 34 seasons. With 518 victories, he currently ranks third among the state's active hoop coaches. His teams have won more than a dozen Charter Oak Conference titles and the 1982 state Class S crown.

For many years he served as Portland's director of athletics, retiring from that post in 2000. He also spent 14 successful seasons as the school's baseball coach, earning over 160 wins and a state championship in 1988. Detrick has called him "Central's best basketball player."

Bazzano says he's one of the smartest players he ever coached, and Majlinger, now deceased, never failed to mention Reilly in any list of favorite players. All three have Gold Keys, and joining them "is as humbling as it is fulfilling," Reilly says.

"Being in that company, being mentioned in the same sentence with all the past Gold Key winners including the coaches who helped shape my career, is something I will never forget."

Nor will he be forgotten. Many of his players have gone on to outstanding careers in law, medicine, business and dozens of other fields. It still is a thrill, he says, when they stop off at Portland High to share their success.

Reilly and his wife, Mary, share a life that began when they first dated in high school more than 40 years ago. Gene says he's mellowed some as a coach over the years, but the truth is he remains a constant in a sea of athletic change. He still wears the same crew cut, still holds the same values and still exhibits the same competitive spirit that led his coaches, his players and the men with whom he served in Vietnam to respect and admire him.

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