Congratulations to all of this year's inductees for the Berkshire County Basketball Hall of Fame.
I think they are all good choices. Great athletes, great coaches. I don't have enough room for stories about everyone, so I'll pass on the best ones.
My favorite Nicky Vallieres story concerns her baseball career. She was a terrific Little League pitcher and a great hitter, too. I covered a playoff game in which she struck out 11 and hit a monstrous home run to help win the game.
One of the players she struck out three times was the opposing pitcher. She also clocked a homer off the kid.
"Striking a blow for women's rights," noted then-sports editor Brian Sullivan when I got back to the office to write up the game.
My Lauren Pelligrino story revolves around the fact that she worked at the legendary Deli in Great Barrington, now closed, years ago. Her father, Franco, made the soups. He was a great cook, and I thought Lauren would follow in his footsteps. Shows what I know. Now she's an actress. Still, she did a great job at The Deli.
Coaches Tom Cinella of Lee and Fred Lafave of Lenox sat across from each other for decades. Cinella has the edge in state championships, with six, but Fred is the only coach in state history to lead a boys and a girls basketball team to the state championship. (In different years, obviously.)
I'll leave others to argue who was the better coach. I liked ‘em both.
Fred once told me one of the most insightful things a coach has ever said to me. His 1992 girls state champion had, basically, one scorer in Samantha Herrick, and a lot of players who were good athletes, but not necessarily great basketball players.
Fred made them into a championship team. Shannon Hoff, for example, wasn't much of a scorer or rebounder, but she was a solid defender and, frankly, one of the best players I've ever seen at delivering an entry pass to the post. But, of course, that didn't get her into the papers much.
Fred knew that.
"The hardest thing about this team," he told me, "wasn't selling the players that they all had roles. They wanted to win and didn't care. It was selling the parents."
That team also upset the Lee girls in the Western Mass. Division III final, and went on to the state championship game. With Lee out, the fans from the Eastern Mass. champ thought they had it made. They had hundreds of balloons saying "State Champs!" on their side of the stands during the final. As we all know, the balloons were a tad premature.
I have to admit, that while Tom Cinella had tremendous success as a girls coach, my favorite Tom Cinella team was when he was a boys coach and his son Peter was a senior. Peter Cinella was the point guard and the biggest guy on the squad.
The other guard was a kid named Keith Martin, who had 3-point range long before the 3-point shot was legal. He took a shot one night that was from so far out, I thought at first he was trying to lob someone. Nope. And it probably went in.
Mike Kinne, longtime ref, is also an inductee. This story is well-known to Great Barrington residents, but Mike and longtime coach Tom Kinne are twins.
Mike would never work games in which his brother coached. But in the early portion of his career, Mike refereed junior varsity games at Monument Mountain.
So teams would come in and this little guy was working the JV game. Mike would duck into the locker room and Tom would lead the varsity Spartan boys onto the floor as the head coach.
And of course, understandably, opposing fans would flip out, since it seemed that the same guy was reffing and coaching.
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