The Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame committee has announced six new members have been selected – Hopkins boys lacrosse coach Sandy MacMullen, a native of Clinton who played lacrosse at Yale; George Baldassare of Madison, a former longtime Hand boys lacrosse assistant coach and currently the director of high school boys lacrosse for Laxpower.com; Fairfield Prep boys lacrosse coach Chris Smalkais; Zack Coburn a standout for the boys lacrosse team at Wilton and University of Pennsylvania men’s lacrosse team; New Canaan boys lacrosse standout Carl Nissen who also played at Princeton; and Joe Olivia, who became a high school and college referee in 1960 and was a longtime contributor to the sport of lacrosse in the state.
They will be honored at a dinner on Nov. 16 from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. at Aldario’s Restaurant in Milford. For more information and to purchase tickets you can go to www.ctlacrosse.org.
Bios are below.
George Baldassare played attack for Half Hollow Hills High School in Huntington, New York, and then at Clarkson College of Technology (now known as Clarkson University) where he graduated in 1973. He admits to “riding the pine” most of the time, but by doing more watching than playing he quickly became a student of the sport. After graduating from college he soon was involved year-round coaching on the youth level. He moved to Madison, Connecticut from Long Island in 1981 and immediately had an impact on lacrosse here. From 1981 to 2012 he chaired and was the driving force behind the Daniel Hand High School Pre-Season Lacrosse Tournament that brought top teams to Madison from around the country each March to test their mettle against the best. From 1984 to 2012 “Baldo” was assistant boys lacrosse coach at Hand, and has been Executive Secretary of the Connecticut High School Lacrosse Coaches Association since 1999. Also in 1999, George became the high school boys director for LaxPower.com, the go-to national website for lacrosse stats, scores, and recruiting information. He is a voter on the New Haven Register Boys Lacrosse Top 10 Poll. In 2003 and 2008 he was Asst. General Manager of Team USA U-19 World Boys Lacrosse, helping to win World Championships both years. This past spring, he provided color commentary for CPTV’s initial season of high school lacrosse coverage. George and his wife Patricia, who continue to reside in Madison, have a son, Michael, who played at Hand and for Endicott College. George Baldassare is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great contributor to the game.
Zack Colburn, a native of Wilton, is considered one of the best and smartest defensemen ever to play the game. Every team he has played on has experienced great success. At Wilton High School, he was part of FCIAC and State Chamnionship teams in 1979 and 1980 and earned All-State honors. Zack went on to play for the University of Pennsylvania where he was named team captain as a senior, was part of Ivy League Championship teams in 1983 and 1984, and earned 1st Team All-Ivy and 2nd Team All-America honors in 1984. After college, Zack played for Eagles’ Eye and MAP Philadelphia Lacrosse Clubs from 1985 through 1998 in the pre-professional days when the United States Club Lacrosse Association (USCLA) was the highest level of play, save for international competition. During his club days, Zack was recognized as 1st Team All Club twice in 1986 and 1993 and as 2nd Team All Club five times. He was a Club All Star in 1992 and 1993. In 1995, he received the Krongard Award, which is the highest award that a USCLA player can receive as it recognizes outstanding play and sportsmanship at the club level over many years. At the even higher international level, Colburn has the rare distinction of having been a member of three USA World Championship Teams in 1990, 1994, and 1998. As a coach, Colburn was an assistant at Penn, Rutgers, and Swarthmore, and in 1994 and 1995 was Swarthmore’s head coach. Currently he is a coach and Director of College Recruiting Services for Coast 2 Coast Lacrosse in Texas. He was inducted into the University of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in 1994, the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association Hall of Fame in 1999, and the US National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2002. Zack Colburn is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great player.
Sandy MacMullen is a native of Clinton who played at Yale under Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame coach Bob McHenry, graduating and representing Yale in the New England All-Star Game in 1978. The following year he began as a very young varsity head coach at Hopkins School in New Haven. He never left. Over the last 35 years he has accumulated 250+ wins (he’s not sure exactly how many). In recent years, Hopkins teams were Fairchester League champions in 2006, 2007, 2008 and won the league tournament in 2013. Sandy was named Western New England Coach of the year in 2008 and is a three-time New Haven Register Coach of the Year. In 2005, Hopkins was the recipient of the Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association Sportsmanship Award. In 2013, the Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association honored Sandy with the Joe Oliva Award for Contribution to the Game (named for fellow inductee Joseph Oliva). Sandy is active in the Connecticut Super Juniors program and has participated as a presenter at conventions of the Connecticut Lacrosse Foundation, the Connecticut Chapter of US Lacrosse. He still plays age group lacrosse, notably with the Connecticut Valley Lacrosse Club in the spring and in summer tournaments. He and his wife Carla have three children, Alexa, Angus, and Avery. Sandy MacMullen is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great coach.
Carl Nissen was a pioneer of Connecticut public school lacrosse and has continued to contribute to the development of the sport in the state. He pioneered the game as a player at New Canaan High School, bridging the transition from club to varsity (1974), yet his Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame Coach Howard Benedict still calls him the “best player ever at New Canaan,” where he graduated in 1976. He went on to play and captain the team at Princeton, graduating in 1981. After college, he continued to play club ball and coached at the youth, high school (New Canaan), and college level, including three years under Dave Urick at Hobart (1981-1984). He then attended the University of Connecticut Medical School, graduating in 1990 with a specialty in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, and followed that with a University of Connecticut fellowship in his specialty. Since completing his fellowship in 1996, he has served as team physician and consultant for numerous area youth organizations, high schools, and colleges, including Trinity College, Quinnipiac University, and UConn. He recently volunteered and was selected as Orthopedic Physician for the U.S. Women’s National Team that will compete in the Federation of International Lacrosse 2017 Senior World Cup in Guildford, Surrey, England. Carl Nissen is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great and pioneering player and continuing major contributor to the game.
Joseph Oliva, coming out of New Britain High School (1943) and Central Connecticut State University (1950), never played lacrosse. But since 1960 he had been instrumental in the growth of the game in Connecticut. He was the sixth lacrosse official in the state: he began working secondary school and post college club games in 1960 and added college games in 1963, and continued at all three levels through 1996. He worked many high profile games including North-South College All Star Games in 1967 and 1970, numerous NCAA playoff games, the Army-Navy game, and Ivy League games when the home team picked officials. When Johns Hopkins came to New England for games in the 1960s and 1970s their legendary National Hall of Fame coach Bob Scott asked for Joe Oliva because he knew he would get a fair game. He was the first assignor of officials for high school and prep school games in Connecticut, serving from 1979 through 1988. From 1968 through 1972 he was chairman of the Northern Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association, and then became president of the New England Lacrosse Officials Association (1975-1977). The Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association award for contribution to the game is named for Joe Oliva (won by fellow inductee Sandy MacMullen in 2013). He was married for fifty-four years to his wife Annette, who passed away in 2003. They had one daughter, Donna, who died in 2004, and two grandsons and three great grandchildren. Joseph Oliva is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great official and contributor to the game in Connecticut and across New England.
Chris Smalkais was born in Toronto, where he began playing Canada’s National Sport at age seven. He played minor league box lacrosse in Etobicoke and Mississauga, played Junior A box lacrosse for the Etobicoke Eclipse, and played field lacrosse for Etobicoke Lacrosse Club. After moving to Connecticut, he started coaching at Fairfield Prep in 1987, with the JV. A year later he took over the varsity, which under his leadership has won twelve Southern Connecticut Conference titles, six State championships, and over 360 games. He has coached twenty-three High School All Americans and eleven players who have gone on to be USILA College All Americans. Chris Smalkais is being inducted into the Connecticut Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great coach.