Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

End of an era

Usually I try to stay out of the way and focus on the players and coaches I cover. However, there was some news this week for me to go down a different path.

Perhaps UConn fans in the mid and late 1990s will remember the name Paul Marslano as he handled the daily coverage of the UConn women's basketball team before I took over the beat in 1999. Well, four days ago Paul passed away at the age of 76. Maybe it was Geno Auriemma reflecting on his 30 years at the helm of the UConn program that put me in a reminiscing frame of mine or that Paul made that much of an impact on me as a journalist, man and friend but I feel it is appropriate to share some of my thoughts about the end of an era in New Haven sports.

Just 18 months after I arrived in Connecticut I stepped into the offices of the New Haven Register for the first time. I was still in college back in 1986 when I was hired as an EA or editorial assistant which is pretty much what is sounds like. I answered phones at night, filed photos and might even make a coffee run or 100. What I did very infrequently was write. However, just stepping foot into that building would forever change my life. I thought I wanted a career in the newspaper industry and it didn't take long for me to realize it was my calling as a rubbed shoulders with some of incredibly talented people. I still recall the first time I walked into the office and I could feel the eyes of some of the most legendary figures in New Haven sports journalism trying to get a read on the new kid. The staff was complete with absolute heavy hitters. Bob Casey, Tom McCormack, George Wadley, Dave Solomon and Paul Marslano could go toe to toe with any five writers ever to work in any sports department. It struck me shortly after I received a call from my boss informing me of Paul's passing that they are all gone. They left behind proud families, a large group of friends, coaches and athletes who got to know them as more than just a reporter on assignment with a notebook, couple of pens and tape recorder as well as an impressionable young writer who learned so much about my craft being in the same building with those true legends.

Dave Solomon and I often traveled together covering UConn or worked side by side at the pro tennis tournament in New Haven or golf tournament in Cromwell. We became very close and I'm not sure if I have ever fully recovered from his tragic death in a car accident as he drove home from a UConn football practice. Bob Casey was probably the veteran journalist I attached myself to when I first started working at the Register. His ability to work the phone, develop sources and provide comprehensive coverage on any story catching his fancy was truly amazing. Tom McCormack was about as colorful of a personality as I have ever encountered and that came through with his writing. Geroge Wadley left me in absolute awe the first time I worked alongside him at an event. It was called the District Classic, a high school baseball event featuring Hillhouse, Wilbur Cross, Hamden and West Haven. We interviewed the same coach and while I relied on a tape recorder, George did not and also did not write a word down. I wasn't sure what to make of this and since his story would be running before mine, I was pretty curious if the quotes would be anywhere close to being accurate. They were, in fact, word for word as they were spoken. George also had a way to stirring things up as well as anybody I've ever encountered. He did not write simply to get a reaction which seems to be becoming a more common practice in this business but he would state his opinion is such an eloquent fashion that I would imagine that even the people in his cross hairs must have appreciated the incredible way he expressed that opinion.

This brings me to Paul. We seemed to run in parallel universes until 1999. I was wrapping up my second and final season covering the Yale men's hockey team and the decision was made to have me take over the UConn women's basketball beat. In order to help me make the adjustment my bosses had me accompany Paul to some UConn games and we rode up to UConn together. The first thing that struck me about Paul is he could find the humor in anything. His playful spirit would usually work its way into his line of questioning during press conferences. His accomplishments at that point were legendary but never once did he throw the fact that he was a regular at some of the biggest sporting events in my face. He could have made my life difficult since I was replacing him on an assignment that he really seemed to enjoy but did exactly the opposite. Perhaps he sensed my nervousness because I did wonder if I had what it took to handle a beat as competitive as UConn women's basketball.. He taught me more about journalism and so much more during that one year. Whenever he would see me in the office he loved to chat about how things were going covering Geno Auriemma and the Huskies. Even after he retired, he would call the office when I was there or call me at home and talk my ear off.

It really upsets me that I will be in Philadelphia this weekend for the UConn football game against Temple and won't be able to attend either his wake or funeral because I would love nothing more than to pay tribute to a man I simply knew as "Mars."


Blogger hclovely said...

Thanks so much for this column. I had somewhat forgotten
what an awesome array of sportswriters that the Register had.
Will always remember Paul Marsalano's article on the
NightHawks Bobby Sheehan (Gonzo Alonzo, I think)
All the best.

11:57 AM 

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