Page 13 - CHSCA Fall-Winter Magazine 2020-2021
P. 13

Corto Builds Culture of Family from Hartford to New Britain
Selected to National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame for doing things right for 49 years!
 by Randy Brochu
Family has always meant more than a bloodline to Lenny Corto. Growing up in the South End of Hartford, what family meant to him as a young man extend- ed beyond his home on Adelaide Street and into his neighborhood. It is those qualities of family – loyalty and looking out for your people – that has defined Corto throughout his career as a foot- ball coach and athletic director at South Catholic High School and New Britain High School for almost 50 years.
In the culture of family he built in both communities, he is more of a father, uncle and brother to the people whose lives he has enhanced as a coach, administra- tor and colleague.
As a standout linebacker at South Catholic in high school and then Southern Connecticut State University in college, leadership came naturally to the charismatic kid-at-heart who drew everybody in.
Teaching and coaching was a natural career path for some- one who has always taken pride in being there for the kids, much as his parents never missed one of his games as a player or as a coach. Like so many good sons, he returned home to the family after first leaving the nest to give back to the neighborhood that gave him so much.
“The neighborhood was every-
thing,” said Joe D’Ambrosio, a South End childhood friend who became a successful statewide trusted voice in sports broadcast- ing with WTIC-AM and the UConn Huskies.
“South Catholic was a tight- knit community. In the South End neighborhood, everybody invested in everybody else. And that’s in Lenny’s DNA. That all speaks to who Lenny is. I don’t think he’s ever turned anybody down who has asked him for help. I don’t think he’s ever turned his back on anybody. He’s one of the most solid people I know.”
Corto’s alma mater gave him his first professional opportunity upon graduating from SCSU in 1972, hiring him as a physical edu- cation teacher and an assistant football coach under his old coach
John Zinser. When Zinser left in 1974 to start a new football pro- gram at New Fairfield High School, Corto took over as the head coach at the age of 24.
In building his first staff, one of the first decisions he made was to bring aboard his good friend and teammate at both South Catho- lic and SCSU, Mike Smith. It was his first move in a career defined by bringing alumni back home to coach the programs he would build to encompass the founda- tions of family values.
“As a friend, you can’t find any- one more loyal,” said Smith, who also was Corto’s college roommate. “It’s evidenced by all the kids who come back and want to be around him.”
South Catholic was always known as a basketball school, so
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