CANTON – It was obvious early in last Friday’s alumni boys basketball game that many of the former players of the Canton High basketball team haven’t been playing much basketball lately. There were plenty of missed shots and turnovers.
However, there were plenty of smiles, handshakes, hugs and emotion.
The 23 players that showed up for a 20-minute game last Friday before Canton’s game with East Windsor are not boys anymore.
They’re men, husbands and fathers. They have a variety of jobs — police officer, school superintendent, golf course superintendent, teacher, coach, salesman and insurance.
They came back to renew bonds with each other and with a man who played a role in each of their lives – Bill Mudano, the former Canton High basketball coach, teacher and athletic director. Mudano coached the boys basketball team from 1974 to 1988. Seventy-three boys played on his teams. Other students were managers, cheerleaders or fans. They were all a member of the basketball family.
And it was that basketball family that wanted to reach out and give Mudano a hug Friday.
It’s been a difficult few months for the Mudano family. Bill’s wife of 45 years, Karen, passed away in December. They raised a family in Canton and Karen was never far from Bill’s side during his days in Canton and during his time organizing and running the Nutmeg State Games across Connecticut the past 20 years.
So for a few hours, the Canton basketball family that thrived during the Mudano era was together again – playing some basketball, laughing and smiling.
Doug Howe, a manager on Mudano’s first team in 1974, was there along with players from the 1970s and 1980s. Howe didn’t play then and it wasn’t going to start now. Jim Callahan, a co-captain with Roger Coutu, on the 1978 state championship team came up from Virginia Beach, Va. Reggie Tucker, who played in the mid-1980s and the current head coach at Classical Magnet School in Hartford, let his assistant basketball coaches at Classical run practice this evening. He wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to reconnect.
The game started slowly with Team Gold taking an 11-0 lead. But Team Maroon closed the gap and actually had several chances to tie at the buzzer but fell short, 23-21. However, some members of Team Maroon contend the shot that fell through the net just after the buzzer should have counted.
Mudano coached one team while former assistant coach Bill Sarmuk helped coach the other team.
Callahan and Coutu presented Mudano with an appreciation of thanks from the Canton Athletic Booster Club at halftime of Canton’s varsity game against East Windsor. The crowd gave Mudano a standing ovation.
In his 15-year tenure at Canton, Mudano’s teams played in two Class S championship games, winning in 1978 and losing in 1981. The Warriors won three Northwest Conference Division II championships and three CIAC Class S regional titles. Mudano’s teams won a school-record 173 games.
The players that attended –
Team Mudano (maroon): Bill Mudano, Jr., Rick Golder,Ken Langevin, Doug Clement, Roger Coutu, Rob Huff, Jim Callahan, Rob Seger, Tom Huff, Jeff Kitching
Team Sarmuk (gold): Bill Canny, Don Ronan, Allan Johnson, Steve Whirty, Donovan Valley, Todd Eustace, Brennan Glasgow, Jeff Bridgman, Rob Eustace, Sean Glasgow, David Vaudreuil, Reggie Tucker, Peter Grace.