Long time coming: St. Joseph of Trumbull unveils renovated gymnasium

TRUMBULL — It’s been the site of countless athletic triumphs, but the sight of St. Joseph’s historic gym was, at best, underwhelming.

But all that is in the past now, as the school unveiled its new, spruced up facility in a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. Legendary boys basketball coach Vito Montelli, the winningest high school coach in New England history with 878 wins and 11 state championships in a career that spanned a half-century, was on hand as the school rededicated the court that has borne his name since his retirement in 2012.

“The history of St. Joseph athletics has showcased so many victories, but it also has formed the foundation of what makes St. Joseph, St. Joseph,” school President David Klein said.

In addition to athletics, the gym also has been the scene of many other memorable monents, including class functions, school gatherings, music and drama performances, Board Chairman Chris Wilson said.

“This has really been home to so much more than sports,” he said. “Some of us have had the experience of a rainy graduation day in here.”

But the championship banners lining the walls are testimony to the dedication of the students and athletes at a school with an enrollment of about 800 that plays most of its games against schools with student bodies triple its size or more, he said.

“We compete with the best, and we do it very successfully,” Wilson said.

The renovated facility now features new bleachers and a new floor for the basketball/volleyball court, plus new energy efficient lights and a new HVAC system.

Matt Kavulich, the school’s dean of student life and assistant volleyball coach for the six-time state champion girls’ program, said the new digs will be much more comfortable for the school’s student athletes.

“It’ll be nice to have the new AC system,” he said. “Volleyball starts practicing in August, and there would be days we would come in here and it would be, ugh.”

On the other hand, the old gym’s character helped te Cadets establish a home court advantage, he said.

“Our kids knew where the gaps and bumps in the floor were,” he said.

Still, he and the rest of the school staff and students won’t exactly be pining for the old days when they gather for athletic competitions or student convocations.

“The last few years this place was really needing some upgrades,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”`