Ten Minutes with Don Harrison
Sportswriter and author of Hoops in Connecticut: The Nutmeg State’s Passion for Basketball
Don Harrison is author of Hoops in Connecticut: The Nutmeg State’s Passion for Basketball. A 40-year resident of Fairfield, Harrison has been executive sports editor of The Republican-American, and founding editor of both The Greenwich Citizen Newspaper and Sacred Heart Magazine. He was included on Houghton Mifflin’s list of Best American Sportswriters in 1993. We sat down to find out how Harrison came to track the remarkable evolution of the sport in our state.
How did you happen to settle in Fairfield? I was born in Brooklyn, and spent my early years in the New Haven area, although I also lived briefly in Flushing. My wife, Patti, and I purchased a condo in Fairfield shortly before our marriage because it was a half-way point between her job in Bronxville and mine as sports editor of The Republican-American in Waterbury. We fell in love with the community and raised our family here. All of our daughters, Rachel, Erin, Alexis, still live in town, so we get to spend time with them and their families.
How did you get your start as a sportswriter? I was living with my dad in Flushing in 1960, and was hired as a copyboy by The New York Mirror. I was just a couple weeks shy of my 21st birthday. Walter Winchell still reigned as the king of the gossip columnists; I still recall the night he walked into the city room flanked by Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen. Wow! I progressed from copyboy to sports deskman in three years.
Where can we find you out and about in Fairfield? Patti and I enjoy taking our three grandchildren to the Sand Castle Playground at Jennings Beach. Even Patrick, who’s approaching four, has begun to negotiate the slides with confidence. When possible, we watch Luke in his Little League games at Riverfield School and take in Lauren’s ballet performances.
How did our tiny state come to loom so large in the world of basketball? Think about it. University of Connecticut is the only New England school to win more than one NCAA national championship; the Huskies did it three times. On the women’s side, Coach Geno Auriemma’s women’s team tied Tennessee’s record by winning its eighth national title.
How have Connecticut and its athletes shaped the sport of basketball and contributed to it? The greatest player born and raised in Connecticut is none other than Calvin Murphy from Norwalk. He’s the only state native elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player. Although standing just 5-foot-9, Murphy was a dazzling player in high school, at Niagara, and in the NBA with the Houston Rockets. Marcus Camby, from Hartford, John Bagley from Bridgeport, Mike Gminski from Monroe, and the late Super John Williamson from New Haven are other Nutmeggers of note. It’s safe to say that no other university in the nation has duplicated the concurrent successes of the Huskies’ men’s and women’s programs.
What is your next book? A good question for which there is no answer. Yet.