Nominations of candidates are now being sought for this year’s Westchester Sports Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame honors outstanding professional and amateur sportsmen and sportswomen, living or deceased, who have gained prominence in their fields and who have made substantial contributions to sports in Westchester County. Since its establishment in 1968, the organization has inducted over 200 individuals into its prestigious membership ranks.
A prospective candidate must be at least 25 years old and should be a person of integrity and good character who has gained prominence in either professional or amateur sports as a player, coach, manager, official, owner, writer or broadcaster.
Congratulations to our 2016 winners
The Hall of Fame honors outstanding professional and amateur sportsmen and sportswomen, living or deceased, who have gained prominence in their fields and who have made substantial contributions to sports in Westchester County. Since its establishment in 1968, the organization has inducted 219 individuals into its prestigious membership ranks. Congratulations to this year's winners.
Originally from Colledimezzo, Italy, Gino D’Ippolito has been a Yonkers resident since 1951 and began refereeing in 1963 in Eastern New York. In the late 1960s he was assigned to the pros, with the old National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), a forerunner to the original North American Soccer League (NASL). After being called to ref for a pro game in Washington DC, D’Ippolito advanced rapidly and made it onto the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) list in 1972. Since then, he has refereed in virtually every soccer final the USA had to offer, including the North American Soccer League (NASL), American Soccer League (ASL) and Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The now 81-year-old was an official in over 600 NASL games from 1968 until the league’s final season in 1984. He has travelled to 29 nations to ref international games, as well as 15 World Cup qualifiers for the 1978, 1982, and 1986 World Cups. D’Ippolito was also an official for over 1,500 pro indoor games from 1978 to 2001 and because of all these games and his enthusiasm; he became one of the most well-known personalities in the MISL. That league had several series of trading cards so, of course, there had to be a Gino D’Ippolito trading card. With all of these professional and college games, he could also be found refereeing both adult and youth games in eastern New York as well as high school games in an officiating career that has spanned more than five decades. D’Ippolito has officiated over 2,000 pro games and refereed international games in 29 countries.
Neil Fitzpatrick grew up in College Point, Queens, with his two brothers and three sisters. Sports had always been a major part of his life. During his high school years, he excelled in basketball as well as baseball. Fitzpatrick entered Manhattan College as a second baseman, but ended up starting as shortstop for the Jaspers. He graduated with a B.S. in Physical Education and then received his Masters in Health Education from Maryland. After graduation, Fitzpatrick began teaching at Ardsley in 1971. During his tenure he coached baseball (Freshman, J.V. and Varsity) for 30 years. In his 17 years as a varsity coach his teams won four state championships, five regional titles, six sectional championships and 10 league titles. Coach Fitzpatrick won a total of 306 games with 111 losses for a winning percentage of 74%. During his varsity career, he averaged 18 wins and 6 losses per year. In addition, Fitzpatrick started and coached the soccer program at Ardsley during the 1970s. Even though he never played the sport, he was the president of the Westchester Soccer Coaches Association for two years.
Mike O’Donnell has been associated with Archbishop Stepinac High School since the fall of 1980, when he joined the football staff of Billy Kane. In 1988, he became Stepinac’s sixth head football coach, succeeding Bernie Connolly. In his 28 years as head coach, Stepinac had won the Catholic High School Football League (CHSFL) Division championships in 1993, 1995, 1997, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015, five league championships (three AA, two AAA) and the New York State Catholic Championship. O’Donnell took great pride in watching numerous student-athletes go on to play football at the collegiate and professional levels. This year over 40 former Stepinac football players will be playing at college level next year. He has had three players whom he coached play professional sports: Marty Conlon, NBA; Brian Sweeney, MLB; and Eric Ogbogu, NFL. Over the 37 years that O’Donnell has been associated with Stepinac, 2016 might be his proudest. Not only did Stepinac win the CHSFL AAA Championship, but Stepinac recorded the most wins in a single season in school history (12), won the AAA CHSFL Championship and the New York State Catholic Championship. He was named USA Today New York State Coach of the year in 2015-2016. O’Donnell has been inducted into the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) Hall of Fame and the Stepinac Hall of Fame. During his career at Stepinac, he has won numerous coach-of-the-year awards and honors including: Daily News Coach of the Year in 1993, 1995, 1997, 2010 and 2011; and Lohud Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2014. Always working with the White Plans community, O’Donnell was named the Grand Marshal of the White Plains St Patrick's Day Parade in 2005.
Dan Ricci, a 1983 graduate of Ossining High School, returned to his alma mater to begin teaching and coaching in 1985. Since being named the head girls’ basketball coach for the Pride, Ricci amassed 432 victories, 17 league championships, seven sectional championships, six regional championships, four New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships and one federation championship. The Pride has also won three Slam Dunk Tournament Championships at the Westchester County Center. In his 25 years as head coach, he has guided the girls’ basketball program from mediocrity to a perennial power. More important than winning, Ricci has shared and cultivated a culture of teamwork, determination and sportsmanship both on and off the court admired by many in the community and around the area. More than 30 of his basketball players have moved on to collegiate careers. Ricci has also assisted many other student-athletes in continuing their careers at the next level. Along with girls’ basketball, he led the varsity football program to sectional and regional championships in 2007; in 12 seasons as head coach his teams won 65 games and appeared in the sectional championship games three times. Ricci also served as head coach for the varsity girls’ lacrosse program for the last seven seasons and amassed 60 plus victories and counting. He has run the Alternative Education Program at Ossining High School and now teaches math and acts as the school’s athletic coordinator.