(Video by the Norwich Bulletin via YouTube)
The name Tony Falzarano may not be as familiar to basketball folks in the southern end of the state like Vito Montelli and Charlie Bentley are, but all three certainly belong in the same sentence.
Falzarano, who coaches at Tourtellotte in Thompson, reached career victory No. 600 last Tuesday. He becomes the third coach in state history to accomplish that milestone, with Montelli (St. Joseph) and Bentley (Harding) being the only other two. Tourtellotte beat Wheeler 63-42 at home.
“It means a lot to me because I’m the only Class S coach with that many wins,” Falzarano said. “I’ve never ducked anybody. We’ve played St. Thomas Aquinas, we’ve played Immaculate, anybody good. We’ve kicked their butts and I’ve gotten my butt kicked.”
Falzarano, who turned 67 on Jan. 6, is in his 38th season as a coach. His first 535 wins came at Putnam.
He grew up in Bridgeport, a 1964 Bridgeport Central graduate. But Falzarano has spent most of his adult life in Putnam. Now the active wins leader, Falzarano won his only Class S state championship in 1986 at Putnam and added two other trips to the final with that program, the last coming in 2006.
Tourtellotte’s last trip, and win, in a S final came in 1987.
“Like Vito and Bentley did and a lot of other coaches have done, you have to put the time in or you’re not going anywhere,” Falzarano said. “The gym has been a second home for me.”
He mentioned his wife Carolyn, who has been present for most of the now 601 wins. His current assistant coaches played for him.
Falzarano is already a member of both the Connecticut and New England Basketball halls of fame. And the CIAC will honor him prior to the state finals March 22-23 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
He is also the mayor of Putnam — literally. Falzarano was elected in November. He said that may impact his decision whether to give up coaching.
“I don’t wan to cheat the kids and the town (of Putnam),” Falzarano said. “It’s a big decision I will have to make after the season. I’m trying to give equal time to both jobs. So far, I’ve not cheated anybody, except my family.”