It’s been a while since there was a hoops game at Compo.
But the reconstruction of the 2 basketball courts is nearly complete. This was the scene yesterday:
The courts have a long history. The first one — built in the late 1950s — was the brainchild of Albie Loeffler and Paul Lane. The Staples High School basketball head and assistant coach, respectively, saw the court as a way to keep their players active in the off-season — and a way to run a Fairfield County league for the Wreckers and their foes.
The court became a community effort. Gault and Kowalsky donated materials and labor.
The 2nd court was built later. It’s been a year-round favorite for generations of basketball players, of all ages.
And even more generations of Canada geese.
Jim Calhoun made headlines yesterday. It was easy: The $1.6 million-a-year University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach returned to the bench following a 23-day health-related leave of absence.
What’s that have to do with “06880”? After all, Staples’ best player in years — John Baumann — ended up at Columbia University, not Storrs. The Wreckers are not known for producing Husky hoopsters — or any Big East players, in fact.
Long before Calhoun, UConn was led by another legendary coach: Hugh Greer. He died at age 60 of a heart attack, in the middle of the 1962-63 season. His place was taken by assistant basketball coach George Wigton.
Wigton led the Huskies to an 11-4 record, the Yankee Conference championship, and the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. His reward? His contract was not renewed.
So he went to Staples High School. He served for 1 year as basketball coach (and assistant football coach), before heading to Bates College.
Wigton remained at the Maine school for 30 years. When he retired in 1996, as the revered coach of men’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s squash — and assistant director of athletics — Bates named a scholar-athlete award in his honor. Last fall he was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
George Wigton’s Westport year is just a footnote in a storied career. Few UConn basketball fans have heard of him — hey, they don’t even remember Hugh Greer.
But on a weekend when Jim Calhoun returns to action, and basketball fans are thinking about the Olympic-size spectacle known as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s nice to recall a time when the UConn basketball coach made a pit stop on the Staples sidelines.