Written by Arthur C. Kaminsky Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00
Manhasset is indeed unique. In American literature, it is the very special place tucked in between Gatsby’s East Egg and West Egg. And in the greatest novel to emerge from World War II, Manhasset initially appears on the very first page of The Caine Mutiny as the hometown of the book’s central protagonist, Willy Keith, whose residence in 1942 is described thusly:“The Keith home in Manhasset was a twelve-room Dutch colonial house with heavy white pillars, high-arching black wood-shingled roof, and multitudes of large windows. It stood on a knoll in the middle of two acres of lawns set with soaring old beech, maple, and oak trees and bordered by flower beds and a thick high hedge.”
It is this Manhasset, the exclusive, leafy enclave of decades past which was vividly recalled a week ago Saturday when the Manhasset Sports Hall of Fame installed its second class at the high school cafeteria. Many memories from those days were rekindled when long-time (1953-1982) head basketball coach Fritz Mueller was honored along with one of his finest players, Ken Howard ’62. More recent recollections were stirred by Lauren Fornasar Barrett ’86 and her classmate Diane Whipple ’86 as well as three- sport standout Tim Goettlemann ’96.
Few would question the central role which athletics has played in making Manhasset such a notable community. Jim Brown ’53 is universally considered the finest football and lacrosse player of all time. In fact, many rate him as the best all-around athlete in U.S. history. Public school lacrosse on Long Island began here in 1933 and an inordinately high percentage of America’s top laxers have played and/or coached in Manhasset. Although it is one of Nassau County’s smallest high schools, MHS continues to churn out large numbers of championship clubs across the wide spectrum of interscholastic sports. Consequently, it was hardly surprising that an overflow crowd packed the cafeteria from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21.
The Hall of Fame, which inducted its inaugural class of seven in 2007, is a joint production of the Manhasset High School Booster Club and the Hall of Fame Committee. Accordingly, the festivities were opened by Booster Club President Debbie Kucharczyk who warmly welcomed everyone and introduced the evening’s co-hosts, long-time high school teachers and coaches, Pam McDonough and Bruce Minerley ’65. They were reprising their roles from two years ago and each was in fine form as they had strong and very personal relationships with all five new Hall of Famers.
McDonough led off with an informative, fact-filled introduction of Lauren Fornasar Barrett who was an extraordinary pioneer for girls’ athletics. Not only was she the first Manhasset tennis player to win a state championship (1983 doubles with Sharon Romaine) but Lauren was also a key member on the 1985 squad which won the school’s initial state title in lacrosse – for girls or boys. She additionally captured a third place (1984) and a fourth (1985) in NYS tennis doubles and was on the 1983 club, which won the Nassau County team title. Also, since there was no women’s swim team back then, Lauren was a successful point winner in the pool for the boys. She went on to play lacrosse at Virginia from where she graduated in 1990.
Lauren, who still lives in town with her husband Ray and their four children, expressed enormous pleasure and satisfaction in receiving this honor. She gave credit to her very talented teammates and particularly to two coaches whom she greatly admired: Ms. McDonough and Dr. David Dorman. She also was very pleased to be joined by her friend and fellow lacrosse star, Diane Whipple in entering the Hall.
Bruce Minerley then reviewed the spectacular career of his fellow three sport all-star Tim Goettlemann–part of one of the town’s outstanding extended families. Tim was also on a state title team when his 1995 laxers corralled the boys’ first state crown. The following year he was named an honorable mention All-American.
Mr. Minerley was Tim’s varsity basketball coach where he received All-Conference recognition for his exemplary work ethic, which was instrumental in leading Manhasset to a league title. Bruce characterized Tim as one of the “three most enjoyable athletes” he had coached in his lengthy career. But, on the gridiron, the All-County player earned even greater praise as many considered him the finest quarterback of the Bill Cherry era in Indian football.
Goettlemann’s acceptance speech was clearly heartfelt as he thanked his parents George and Dudley (who was Dudley Patten when she went to Manhasset High with Ken Howard). However, perhaps his most emotional moment came when he cited the central role played in his life by his brothers.
“It was always the four of us—George, Chris, me and Gunnar—in the yard playing games, playing each other.”
After Manhasset, Tim moved on to Loyola College in Baltimore where he was a second team All-American as a senior. The past ten years, he has been a dominant, record-setting force in the outdoor professional lacrosse leagues (MLL). He is currently with the Long Island Lizards.
The next two inductees took many in the audience back to that Manhasset of The Caine Mutiny–and each evoked a powerful reaction from the emcee.
Without a doubt, Ken Howard is one of the best known and most distinguished graduates of Manhasset High School. But, to Bruce Minerley, three years behind Ken, he was–and always has been–his high school idol. Bruce related that Ken had been a varsity teammate of his brother Herb and recalled how well he treated the younger Minerley.
Prior to rattling off a long list of Ken’s accomplishments as a Manhasset hoopster, Minerley reminded the crowd that he also enjoyed great success on the track team. Ken earned a bronze medal in the triple jump at the county championships (which qualified him to participate in the state title meet). At the ultra-prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia, he was part of the crack mile relay foursome (anchored by 2007 Hall of Famer Paddy McCrary) which won the gold medal—a huge honor.
When it came to basketball, Ken left even a larger imprint. With 730 boards, he is the Indian leader in career rebounds. He also ranks in the top 20 for total scoring. During his three varsity seasons, Manhasset won its division each time and compiled a 51-9 record. As a senior, the 6’6” center averaged over 20 points and 17 rebounds per game. He was selected to the All-Metro and All-County teams while winning the Carl D. Molusky Award as the top player on the North Shore. Off the court, he received the great honor of being elected to the position of governor at Boys State during his junior year.
It went even better after Manhasset as Howard was named captain of the basketball team at Amherst and won a fellowship to attend the Yale Drama School. He soon was a Broadway star (copping a Tony for Child’s Play in 1970) and earning leading roles in feature films and on a wide variety of television movies, series and shows. He famously starred as Thomas Jefferson in 1776–both in the theatre and on the big screen. 2009 has been a banner year for Ken and his wife Linda with a second Emmy triumph for the HBO production of Grey Gardens in addition to being elected president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
However, for many in town, Ken is most associated with a television series that he produced and in which he starred called The White Shadow. It ran on CBS from 1978-81 and was based on his experiences playing for Coach Fritz Mueller in Manhasset.
And Coach Mueller, the fourth honoree, was the focus for much of Ken’s talk. After praising Manhasset as an idyllic place to experience childhood (“As my Dad said to me, kid, this is as good as your life is ever going to be.”), Ken declared how special and wonderful it was to share this ceremony with Fritz. Throughout his vast experiences in a rich and varied life, he had met no finer human being. He admired the ease with which Fritz was able to relate to all of his players–regardless of intellect, race, personality or socio-economic status. Ken summed it all up so well when he stated that, “Fritz was the ideal educator–an inspiring instructor and a coach who taught me the game with great precision and clarity.”
Therefore, Bruce Minerley had a tough act to follow when he introduced his old coach, boss and predecessor. He cited some of the towering statistics, which described Mr. Mueller’s career. Over his 29 seasons, the Indians compiled a 361-203 record for a .640 winning percentage and captured 16 league championships. He took his club to one North Shore and two Nassau County finals. Bruce then illustrated why so many people admire the now 85-year-old former Manhasset Athletic Director. He related an anecdote which described how Fritz had used a basketball practice to assist his extremely shy manager in securing a prom date. At that point, Coach Mueller leaned over and whispered to this reporter, “Oh boy, Bruce is right; that’s exactly what happened.”
In a nice touch, current boys varsity coach Dr. George Bruns was called to the stage to present Fritz Mueller with his Hall of Fame plaque. Still tall, erect and handsome, the coach took great pleasure in introducing his four children, Gail, Donna, Dawn and Glen, himself a superior athlete who played both basketball and lacrosse at Manhasset, graduating in 1968, and Cornell. He fondly remembered his late wife Betty and, as coaches always do, tried to give all the credit to his wonderful players–many of whom returned that evening to honor their beloved mentor (including among them Larry Zale ’58 and Ken Howard’s teammate, Ken Weigand ‘62). Probably the most outstanding was another returnee Tom Emma ’79 who set the Nassau County career scoring record with 1,987 points (in the pre-three point era and which remains the #2 total even today) and went on to captain the Duke hoops squad.
Pam McDonough returned to the stage to introduce the fifth honoree, one more member of the class of 1986 with whom she had a close association. Much like Lauren Fornasar Barrett, Diane Whipple was a multi-sport athlete who was an All-Conference soccer performer and a member of the 1985 state champion lacrosse club on which she earned All-American honors. Following Manhasset, she proceeded to Penn State where her lacrosse team won a pair of national championships and Diane again received All-American recognition. She was the Nittany Lions’ female athlete of the year for 1990.
Hoping to build lacrosse in California, Whipple moved there to coach. While heading up the program at St. Mary’s College in 2001, her career prematurely ended in a tragic accident at her home in San Francisco. She was only 34 years old. Pam McDonough described her friend as having unusual speed and grit. She was a willing and eager student who had gone on to become an exceptional coach.
Diane’s mom, Mrs. Penny Whipple Correnty, accompanied by husband Vincent as well as her sons Rick and Chip, accepted the Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of Diane. While certainly lamenting her daughter’s absence, she chose to emphasize the many positives from Diane’s life. As almost everyone in the audience was familiar with the Whipple saga, it was heartwarming to see and hear from her family.
As an addenda to the night’s activities, Ken Howard went from the ceremony to address the cast and crew working on that evening’s high school production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. His chat was moderated by drama teacher Robb Fessler, the impresario behind all MHS theatre, and was extremely well received.
Former Booster Club President and Hall of Fame committee member Bob Anastasia closed the night’s activities with remarks congratulating the newly-minted Hall of Famers and thanking the many volunteers for their considerable efforts which had produced an event so many will never forget. All agreed that the Hall of Fame was now firmly established as a true Manhasset institution.