Gene Reilly

Bulkeley High School

By James A Johnson © 2017

*Dedicated posthumously to Gene Reilly Class of 1962

Bulkeley High School located at 300 Wethersfield Ave, in Hartford, Connecticut is named after Morgan Gardner Bulkeley.  He was President of Aetna Insurance Company, Mayor of Hartford, Governor of Connecticut and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The original BHS on Maple Avenue opened in 1926 with school colors of Maroon and White and the mascot is the Bulldog.

The new Bulkeley H. S. that opened in 1975 is a larger and modern building.   Bulkeley offers a complete college preparatory program, advanced placement classes and courses in the arts, music and vocational education. This story is about one of the most prolific Bulldogs in Bulkeley history.  If you were at a basketball game at BHS in the academic years of 1960 -1962, you would have seen a 5’10” player who performed tenacious defense.  He could also put the ball in the basket with a dazzling array of shots.  It did not pay to foul him because in one period he converted 30 consecutive foul shots.  Some of you at this point are guessing the name of the player is Jim Belifiore.  An excellent choice but you are wrong.  Enter Eugene Reilly in 1962, First Team Connecticut All-State, First Team All-New England, First Team Capital District Conference (CDC) and First Team All-Tournament.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 8.38.45 AM.pngGene Reilly

         The 1962 Bulkeley basketball team is considered one of the best teams ever led by Gene Reilly, 16.4 ppg., Jim Belifiore, 16.2 ppg. and point guard Joe Hourihan.  Hourihan a three sport star (basketball, baseball & football) who graduated academically third in his class is awarded the prestigious Casey Athletic Medal as the outstanding senior athlete. Today Joe Hourihan is a consummate trial lawyer and partner with the law firm of Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney LLC based in Wethersfield, CT. The legendary Lou Bazzano coached this team.  Gene is remembered for his leadership qualities, bloodhound defense together with his scoring ability.  

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 8.39.36 AM.pngGene Reilly, Captain

I suspect that Gene’s older brother Richard Reilly, a member of the 1954 Weaver H. S. Connecticut Champion instructed Gene on the fundamentals of basketball.  Richard Reilly is on the back row extreme left on the picture below.

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1954 Weaver H. S. City and State Champion

Get this: Joe Reilly, Gene’s brother earned four letters in basketball at Bulkeley from 1953-1957. Richard Reilly was a member and letter winner on the 1954 Weaver state championship team.  If you are confused, the answer is that in 1953 the Reilly family moved from the Weaver School District to the Bulkeley School District. Their mother permitted Richard to finish his career at Weaver. When Bulkeley played Weaver, Mrs. Reilly would sit on the Weaver side of the court for one-half of the game and then on the Bulkeley side for the other half of the game.


In the 1961-1962 regular season, Bulkeley played Hartford Public H. S. twice with its High School All-America player Ed Griffin and lost. In the finals of the Connecticut State Tournament, they met again and Bulkeley lost.  Since Connecticut sends the state champion and runner-up to Boston to compete in the famed, New England Tournament, Bulkeley and HPHS met in the final game.  Again, HPHS prevailed as New England Champions.  Bulkeley lost four games in 1961-1962 season and all to HPHS.  Gene Reilly and Ed Griffin are forever linked.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 8.41.19 AM.pngGene Reilly at Boston Garden

After 1962, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), the governing body for all sports decided not to participate in the New England Tournament. The genesis of this decision began in 1958 when Wilber Cross played Somerville, Massachusetts for the New England Championship and a brawl broke out. Wilbur Cross, the New England Champs had to be police escorted out of the Boston Garden. This team was led by Dom Perno, Dom Ferrara and Bill Hulteen and coached by legendary Sal Verderame.

In the fall of 1962, Gene Reilly entered as a student Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut.  His basketball coach is the legendary “Mr. Blue Devil”, Bill Detrick.  In fact, Detrick is so well respected that the gymnasium is named in his honor.  As an interesting aside, Bill Detrick was a basketball player at Central Connecticut in the 1940’s along with Ed Rosmarin one of my coaches at Conard H. S.  According to my records, Gene is the first bona fide All-State player at Central Connecticut and greatly enhanced the basketball program. There is no need to set out what Gene established as a player under Bill Detrick because you know they are numerous.  What is important is that Gene Reilly and Coach Bill Detrick together set the stage for future long time coach Howie Dickenman, Jr. and current head coach former NBA player Donyell Marshall.


The Mission Statement of Portland Public Schools, in relevant part, provides:

”The educational philosophy of the Portland Public Schools is based on the concept of a democratic society that recognizes and promotes the dignity and worth of the individual and seeks to provide equal opportunity for each student to realize his or her fullest potential for academic and personal achievement.”

Portland H. S. is so progressive under its leader, Principal Kathryn Lawson that in 2017-18, the Board of Education approved the course, Law and Society. This course provides students with basic, practical knowledge of the law that can be used in everyday life. The course includes criminal, consumer, environmental and individual rights law.

The next stop for Gene is Portland High School as the basketball coach where he produced many outstanding players and productive citizens.  At Portland Gene’s teams were State Champions in 1982 and 1988.  Keep in mind that Gene’s primary responsibility is to teach and prepare young people for adulthood.  And, that is exactly what he was doing at Portland High School in a team huddle or in the classroom. The following, in essence, is one of the verses, for all intents and purposes, that Gene instilled in his students:


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must---but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As everyone of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow----

You might succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up

When he might have captured the victor’s cup.

And learned too late, when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

                                                        Author unknown

In 2015, some of the notable inductees of the Inaugural Class of the Bulkeley H. S. Hall of Fame are Morgan G. Bulkeley, Charles Mazurek, Lou Bazzano, Carmen Perrone, Barry Leghorn, Robert Raffalo (Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee) and Gene Reilly.  For you hip-hop generation readers, take my word for it these players are paragons of the hardwood and the football field.

Some of the accolades bestowed upon Gene Reilly are induction into the New England Hall of Fame, Central Conn. State Univ. Hall of Fame and the Connecticut H. S. Coaches Hall of Fame.  However, this is not the true measure of this man.  The following is how to measure Gene Reilly:

                                         THE MEASURE OF A MAN

Not ---“How did he die?”  But---“How did he live?”

Not---“What did he gain?” But---“What did he give?”

These are the units to measure the worth

Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

Not---“What was his station?”  But—“Had he a heart?”

And---“How did he play his God-given part?

Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer,

To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?”


Not---“What was his church?”  Nor---“What was his creed?”

But---“Had he befriended those really in need?”

Not---“What did the sketch in the newspaper say?”

But—“How many were sorry when he passed away?”

                                                                                   Author unknown

There is much more to tell about Gene Reilly like his baseball acumen as a pitcher that got the attention of Major League Baseball.  Space constraints preclude me from setting it all out.  For those of you who were born too late to meet or see Gene Reilly perform, take my word for it - you missed something big and important.


When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he will not write if you won or lost, but how you played the Game – true to form and substance, this is Gene Reilly.

*This is to acknowledge and thank Bob Raffalo, Chairman of the Bulkeley H. S. Hall of Fame Committee for his assistance and input in the preparation of this article.

About the Author

James A. Johnson is a Conard H. S. alum in West Hartford. He is an accomplished trial attorney concentrating on serious Personal Injury, Insurance Coverages and Sports & Entertainment Law. Jim is an active member of the Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas and Federal Court Bars. He can be reached at www.JamesAJohnsonEsq.com