FCIAC stars to enter Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame

The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame will be inducting seven new members in its 2016 class, including five with ties to the FCIAC.

The inductees were announced during a press conference at UConn-Stamford on Wednesday. The new Hall of Famers will be honored during a ceremony at the Commission’s 12th annual Sports Night awards dinner at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17, at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich.

The inductees include two legendary FCIAC head coaches, as Lou Marinelli of the New Canaan Rams’ football team, and Mike Walsh of Trinity Catholic Crusaders’ boys basketball team, will enter the Hall of Fame in the J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing.

Entering the Jackie Robinson Professional Wing are PGA Tour pro J.J. Henry of Fairfield, and former UConn and WNBA basketball star Rita Williams, a graduate of Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk.

Maurice “Wilky” Gilmore (New Canaan), Bill Streinkraus (Darien), and Manute Bol (Bridgeport) will go into the James O’Rourke Amateur Wing.

With the 2016 class, the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame has now recognized 78 country stars since its first class in 2005.

Lou Marinelli

Lou Marinelli, New Canaan

Marinelli’s career as one of the state’s greatest high school football coaches began in 1981 when he came to New Canaan High School after three years as a head coach in New York state.

He quickly began what has become an unprecedented run of success by turning a program that

had been 0-29-1 over three seasons, into a state champion in just two years.

Now entering his 36th season, Marinelli has continued his amazing success with 34 consecutive non-losing seasons, 11 state titles (1982,1993, 2001, 2002, 2006-09, 2013-15) and five FCIAC championships (1993, 2000-01, 2008, 2013).

His record at New Canaan is 300-92-6 — he has 319 total coaching wins — and he ranks first in wins among Connecticut’s active coaches in Connecticut, and third all-time.

Marinelli has been recognized as FCIAC Coach of the Year, National Football Foundation Coach of the Year, and, in 2002, the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist twice for the National Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association.

In 2009, he was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame and in 2013 he was selected for the FCIAC Hall of Fame.

Mike Walsh, Trinity Catholic

Walsh’s accomplishments as both a highly-successful high school basketball coach and an equally successful career as a youth baseball coach is a rare combination.

His coaching prowess at Trinity Catholic High in Stamford and with Stamford’s storied Babe Ruth baseball programs spans more than 40 years.

Walsh has turned the Crusaders into one the state’s basketball powers in his 37 years there and his 596 wins rank him fifth all time in the state. His first state title came in 1996, starting an annual run to the state championship game, coming away with six state crowns in 12 total appearances, including seven consecutive from 1999-2005.

Walsh has also captured six FCIAC titles in 10 appearances, including three straight championships from 2003-05.

As a youth baseball coach for 40 years, he led 10 Stamford Babe Ruth All-Star teams to World Series appearances. Walsh was awarded the Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance in 2012.

J.J. Henry, Fairfield

Henry has established himself as a successful PGA tour pro over the past 19 years since making his professional debut in 1998.

J.J. Henry

He has three tournament wins to his credit, including his first victory in his home state of Connecticut at the Buick Championship in 2006. His other two tour victories came in 2012 and 2015 at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev.

The Fairfield High graduate also has five second-place finishes to help boost his pro earnings to over $15 million. Henry represented the U.S. as a member of the Ryder Cup in 2006. Prior to becoming a touring pro, Henry had an outstanding amateur career playing out of the Patterson Club in Fairfield as he was a three-time Connecticut State Amateur Champion (1994-95, 1998).

He was undefeated in high school play (76-0-2) and was a four-time all-state selection.

In 1998, he was a first-team All-American at TCU and took second in the NCAA individual golf championship.

Rita Williams, Brien McMahon

Williams played six years in the WNBA from 1998-2003 and rose to All-Star status in 2001 with the Indiana Fever.

Rita Williams

She began her pro career when she was drafted in the first round and 13th overall by the Washington Mystics in 1998.

After two seasons with the Mystics, she was traded to the Fever, where she became the first all star in franchise history when she led the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) assists and steals. She later played for the Houston Comets and the Seattle Storm.

The Brien McMahon High grad had a stellar career at the University of Connecticut for three years, the last two as a starting point guard.

As a co-captain her senior year, she was named the Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player in 1998 and is 10th all time in school history in steals with 248.

At McMahon, she was a Parade Magazine All-American and led the Senators to the 1994 Class L state title. After high school she played one season at Mitchell College and was a first-team junior college All-American.

Maurice “Wilky” Gilmore

Maurice “Wilky” Gilmore, New Canaan

Gilmore was a four-sport letterman at New Canaan High School, but it was in basketball that he made his name as one the legendary players of his era.

He led the Rams to three consecutive state titles (1956-58), scoring a school record 697 points as a senior. While also earning varsity letters in track, golf, and football, Gilmore was heavily recruited for basketball by many college programs after being named all-state for three years.

The 6-foot-6 center took his talent to the Big Eight Conference, where he became a three-year starter at the University of Colorado, leading the Buffaloes to two straight conference titles in 1961 and 1962.

Those same teams went on to the NCAA Elite Eight only to lose to eventual champion Cincinnati in both appearances.

Gilmore averaged 14.7 points per game for his career and is in the school’s top 30 all-time scoring list.

After being drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in the 14th round in 1962, a knee injury curtailed his professional basketball career hopes. He passed away at age 53 in 1993.

Bill Steinkraus, Darien

Bill Steinkraus is one of the most decorated equestrians in U.S. history. He is a five-time Olympian and four-time medal winner, including being the first American to win an individual gold medal in equestrian jumping with his horse Snowbound in 1968.

He also took home bronze in team jumping at the 1952 games as well as two team jumping silver medals at the 1960 and 1972 Olympics.

Steinkraus, who was born in Westport but is a lifetime Darien resident, captained the U.S. Equestrian team for 17 years. Elected to the National Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1987, Steinkraus continued his contributions to the sport as the president of the U.S team for 10 years. He also was a television commentator from 1976-1988, a judge at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and is a noted equestrian author.

With Steinkraus’ induction as the first Darien honoree, a total of 16 different towns are now represented in the Hall of Fame.

Manute Bol, Bridgeport

Bol was not only a one-of-a kind basketball sensation, but also spent much of his life as a humanitarian and political activist in the civil war that divided his native country of Sudan.

Bol’s one-season (1984-85) at the University of Bridgeport created the most excitement in the school’s sports history. The 7-foot-6 center averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game that year. The Division-II Purple Knights, which previously drew 500-600 spectators, routinely sold out their 1,800 seat gym when Bol was on the court. He was drafted in the second round and 31st overall by the Washington Bullets in 1985 and went on to play for four different NBA teams over the course of a 10-year career.

He was one of the best shot blockers in league history, setting the rookie shot blocking record in the ’85-’86 season. Bol finished his NBA career with 2,086 blocks and is the only player to have more blocks than points scored (1,599). He passed away in 2010 at the age of 47.

The Hall of Fame is housed at the University of Connecticut Campus in downtown Stamford and is is open six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc. is a 501c (3) non-profit charitable and educational organization that promotes fitness, an active healthy lifestyle and personal development through sports. The Commission, other than the executive director position, is an all-volunteer group dedicated to creating and supporting programs for fitness awareness education, primarily centered on the 110,000 school age children in the 16 communities it serves. It’s Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy is the countywide umbrella for all of its programs.

For more information, visit fairfieldcountysports.com.

Among the inductees into the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame this year are, from left, Bill Steinkraus of Darien, Mike Walsh of Stamford, and Lou Marinelli of New Canaan.