Editor’s note: During the summer of 2012, the New Haven Register ran a New Haven 200 series to commemorate its 200th anniversary. GameTimeCT.com will share high school related stories from that series periodically throughout the summer.
It’s been over 35 years since Frank Crisafi left coaching, yet he still remains in the top 10 in victories among state boys’ basketball coaches. He remains an icon in East Haven and in the state, one of his crowning achievements a winning streak for the ages.
That remarkable winning streak for the East Haven boys’ basketball team lasted 73 games — 77 if you count four wins against either alumni or college freshmen teams — beginning in December 1953 and running through March 1956, when the Easties lost to Stonington in the Class M state final.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” said Crisafi, now 89. “I had great kids. I didn’t have a lot of stars during that streak. I had good ballplayers who had the team attitude, which I thought carried us right through. I thought we were fundamentally very, very good.”
The streak stood as the longest in state history until 1978, when Middletown, led by Corny Thompson, won 80 straight from 1975-78.
East Haven’s streak also included two of the school’s six state championships: 55-36 over Gilbert in 1954 and 54-32 over Wilcox Tech in 1955, both in Class M.
All told, Crisafi led East Haven to all six of its titles and nine trips to the state final. The last came in 1980, beating Bullard-Havens in Class L and earning the National High School Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year award.
East Haven also won the New England Class B invitational championship in 1954. In 33 years (1947-80), the Yellowjackets went 525-196 under Crisafi’s direction. When he stepped down, no coach in Connecticut history had more wins. He now stands eighth on the all-time list.
“I never looked for or thought much about individual glory,” said Crisafi, a member of the Connecticut High School (1978), New Haven Tap-Off Club (1986) and New England Sports (2004) halls of fame. “We just played the games as they came along. I think our whole manner of being successful was because we had a family makeup. Everyone had a part to play. Every game it was a different guy who led in scoring.”
Crisafi coached a combined 84 seasons in football, basketball, baseball and golf at East Haven. He coached the only undefeated football team in school history (1952) and finished with a 181-63-8 record. The field at the school is named in his honor. The baseball team went 66-20 in nine seasons under him.
Crisafi was also the school’s athletic director from 1963-83 and held the position on an interim basis in the early 1990s. He also was an assistant basketball coach at Hamden Hall after his “retirement.”
Crisafi’s son, Ed, coached at East Haven (1987-94) and North Haven (1994-2007) and enters his 20th season as East Haven’s softball coach. Frank coached Ed and another son, Fran, in basketball.
“Eddie knows more basketball than I will ever know. He’s really a student of the game,” Crisafi said.