THE MAN, THE FAMILY, THE LEGACY
The sports landscape in every state is dotted with legendary family names, generations that are living legacies of the generations before, Penders, Dunnack, Wojick, Hutchinson, Risley, just to name a few in our state. Few names in Connecticut athletic history resonate so proudly with the athletic legacy of a family as the name Reilly.
Generations of Reillys continue to extend the family legacy, with Joe Reilly Jr. coaching at Wesleyan University and Luke Reilly coaching at East Catholic in Manchester, the sons of the legendary former South Catholic, Bloomfield and Newington basketball coach Joe Reilly. The legacy of the Reilly name was never carried more proudly than by Gene Reilly, brother of Joe Sr., uncle of Joe Jr. and Luke.
Gene Reilly is a Connecticut sports legend in his own right, one of the greatest athletes ever to come out of Central Connecticut State College, following an illustrious career at Bulkeley High School. As a guard at Central Connecticut in the early and mid 60’s he led the nation in free throw shooting and attained All American status in 1966. He still holds Central Connecticut records for free throws made and free throws in a game. But his prowess didn’t stop with basketball. He was a star on the diamond as well, a pitcher for the Blue Devils who spent a couple of seasons in the San Francisco Giants minor league system.
After serving in the army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, Gene returned home and continued to build his own legend and the sporting legacy of his family as the baseball coach at South Catholic, where he also worked as an assistant basketball coach under older brother Joe. But it was at Portland High School, where he was the varsity basketball and baseball coach for 35 years, until his retirement in 2007, where Gene wove his own legacy into the family sporting fabric, winning 547 games as the basketball coach, the sixth highest total in state history, while winning Class S state championships in both basketball and baseball.
A gentleman and sportsman of the first order, Gene Reilly was honored by the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance with it’s highest honor, the Gold Key, in 2007. He was a charter member of the Central Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame and joined his brother Joe in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
Gene Reilly passed away on Sunday at the age of 70, a Hartford native who devoted the better part of his life to instilling the lessons of sports and life in young people in Connecticut, carving his name into the legacy of a family who’s name is carved deeply into the sports lore of the state. He died a decade after his brother Joe.
As the next generation continues to add to the legacy of the Reilly name in Connecticut sports, Gene Reilly has given them a beacon, and a shining example, to follow.
With a tribute to a great family legacy in the Connecticut sports world, and one of the wonderful gentlemen behind it, I’m Scott Gray.