Legendary Coach Named Honorary Race Director
Joe Benanto, arguably the greatest all around sports coach in Valley history, has been named the first Honorary Race Director for the Commodore Hull Thanksgiving Day 5K Road Race. The Race Committee decided to enhance the scope of this great community event by also annually honoring an outstanding individual for contributions to the cities of Derby and Shelton.
Benanto, a graduate of Derby High School where he was also an outstanding athlete, was chosen because of his incredible coaching record at Shelton High School. Ironically, Benanto was also inducted into the Connecticut Coaches Hall of Fame on November 10. While there have been many outstanding coaches in the Valley in many sports, few can compare to Benanto's unbelievable success in three sports - baseball, basketball and football.
He is no stranger to Halls of Fame as he is already a member of the New Haven Tap Off Club Hall of Fame for his exploits as a baseball coach at Shelton High and a member of the New Haven Diamond Club for his incredible record as baseball coach at Shelton High School and Yale University. He was the A.A.B.C. New England High School Coach of the Year in 1972 and repeated that honor as the Connecticut High School Baseball Coach of the Year in 1974. The Gene Casey New haven Football Foundation named him as their Coach of the Year twice- in 1995 and 2000.
He first made his mark as a successful coach during a 15 year stint as baseball coach at Shelton. His teams won 214 games and lost only 85. His teams won 8 Housatonic League championships and 4 state championships including a state record 3 straight from 1972-1974. They also set a state record with 15 straight wins in the state tournament.
Joe then added basketball to his coaching resume while continuing as baseball coach. In 8 years, his teams qualified for the state tournament every year and posted an overall record of 106 - 66. including a 20-0 regular season mark in 1973 along with another Housatonic League championship.
He then moved on to Yale where he revived the baseball program and posted a 248 - 237 record. At the same time, he served as the Freshman Football coach and won 41 of 53 games.
He then returned to Shelton for the last ten years of his coaching career and added to the legend by posting a record of 85-24. He added 5 more Housatonic League titles and tacked on 3 more state championships in 1995, 2000 and 2004, his last year in coaching.
All told, Benanto's teams at Shelton won 405 games and lost 175. when you add in his years at Yale, his teams won 694 games!
Jack Walsh, a member of the Race Committee who followed Benanto as basketball coach at Shelton in 1979 said that, "In an area known for outstanding high school sports teams and legendary coaches, Joe's record of achievement in three sports is second to none. Those who played under him and those who have already honored him know that his positive influence on the lives of hundreds who had the opportunity to play for him extended well beyond the athletic arena. We are pleased to have him as the First Honorary Race Director for the Commodore Hull Race."