The head coach of Staples’ boys varsity program, and half of the famed Murphy foursome, will be feted at the Sportsmen of Westport’s 48th annual Dinner of Champions. The event is set for Tuesday, May 19 (6 p.m.) at the Continental Manor in Norwalk.
In 6 years as Wreckers’ head coach, Dan Woog’s teams have won 2 FCIAC championships. They have reached the state “LL” championship game once, and made 3 state semi-final appearances.
After graduating from Staples (where he played on the 1970 state championship team) and Brown University, Dan returned to Westport to begin a coaching and writing career. He helped found the Westport Soccer Association in 1975, and formed the WSA’s 1st U-16 and U-14 teams. His U-19, U-16 and U-14 teams won 10 Connecticut Junior Soccer Association state titles, and reached the finals of the USYSA Region I tournament once.
In 1991 Dan was named National Youth Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He was also honored as Connecticut Junior Soccer Association Coach of the Year in 1980, and in 2000 was inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame.
As a senior at Staples, Dennis Murphy scored the only goal in the the Wreckers’ 1-0 state championship win over Conard-West Hartford — 30 seconds into the match. It was Staples’ 4th consecutive state title; the team finished with an 18-0-1 mark. Dennis also played a key role on Staples’ previous state title, as a junior.
After a stellar career at Southern Connecticut State University, where he served as a 2-time captain and reached the NCAA Division II Final Four, Dennis masterminded Westport’s legendary Bridge Grille U-23 team. He also coached Westport youth teams (his WSA U-18 team was a regional finalist), and served as Staples head coach Jeff Lea’s assistant for the state champion 1982 team. Dennis now lives in Pennsylvania, where he is a sales associate with Nike. Last spring he coached FC Delco to the U-15 state championship.
Ken Murphy was the only sophomore starter on Staples’ 1973 team — when they won their record 5th consecutive state championship. He assisted on the only goal that year in the finals against Manchester, a sudden-death overtime strike that preserved the squad’s 43-game unbeaten streak. As a senior — when he served as Staples’ lone captain — Ken scored in the 2-0 FCIAC championship win over Stamford. He was a 2-time All-State selection. His U-19 McGuire Cup team reached the 1975 regional finals. As a Bridge Grille U-23 player, Ken won 5 state titles.
Ken also enjoyed a superb career at the University of Connecticut. He captained the Huskies, taking them to 3 NCAA tournament appearances and 2 regional finals while twice earning All-New England honors. Ken then played professionally in the North American Soccer League, for the Detroit Express and Washington Diplomats, alongside international legend Johan Cruyff.
Following a very successful career as a commodities trader, Ken — who earned an MBA at Sacred Heart University — joined the men’s soccer coaching staff at Brown University. He also led Bruno United FC to 3 Rhode Island state championships.
Besides Woog and the Murphys, the Sportsmen this year will honor former athletes George Chappa (Staples Class of 1957), Jeff Lavaty (SHS ’57), Jim Deegan (SHS ’72) and Courtney Sutherland-Petti (’87). Rick Giunta (’79) will receive the PAL Award, while Al DiGuido — founder of Al’s Angels — will receive the William A. Krause Jr. Humanitarian Award. Five Staples students will also be given Sportsmen scholarships at the event.
Tickets for the sit-down, prime rib dinner with open bar, are $45. Checks payable to “Sportsmen of Westport” can be sent to: Karen DeFelice, 82 Cardinal St., Fairfield, CT 06825. For questions, contact Karen at: firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-330-0121. The Sportsmen’s web site is: www.SportsmenofWestport.org.