Staak, Schmidt Gibson will be inducted into UConn Hall of Fame

STAMFORD -- Two area athletes who went on to star at the University of Connecticut will be the latest inductees into the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame's University of Connecticut wing.

Mary Schmidt Gibson, a swimming star from Stamford, and Darien's Bob Staak, one of the highest scoring players in UConn basketball history will become the fourth class of inductees during 5:30 p.m.

ceremonies at UConn-Stamford Thursday.

Gibson and Staak both started their collegiate careers at other universities before transferring to UConn and both have never regretted the switch.

Gibson attended Virginia Commonwealth before heading to Storrs.

"Virginia Commonwealth was ranked second in the nation at the time and UConn swimming was more a club sport," Gibson said. "UConn's program wasn't the greatest and the pool was old but I wanted to transfer to UConn for the usual reasons -- I was offered some scholarship money and I had a boyfriend there," she said with a laugh.

"I actually wanted to get close to home and I knew I would get a good education," Gibson said. "I made the right move."

Staak played freshman basketball at St. John's before heading to UConn.

"I was living in an apartment off-campus and was missing the `campus life,' " Staak, a former basketball standout at Darien High School, said. "It was the best move I made. Dee Rowe was like a second father for me and I had the experience of playing before enthusiastic crowds."

As a Stamford High School swimmer, Gibson competed in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 freestyle.

Although she only swam at UConn for two seasons, she was one of the first woman from the program to receive national recognition. As a sophomore in 1975-76, she earned All-American status in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, setting a national women's record in the 50.

She was one of the first inductees in the UConn Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.

Staak played three seasons at UConn under Rowe, averaging 18.1 points per game during his career, sixth best in school history, and is one of only 14 players to average more than 20 points in a season (20.9 in 1970-71).

Both Gibson and Staak have remained involved in their sport. Gibson, now a physical therapist who resides in Bethesda, Md., is involved in Masters swimming programs and met her husband of 29 years at a Masters meet. One of her two sons participated in the Olympic Trials in 2008 and her daughter is one second off qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Following graduation in 1971, Staak launched a highly successful collegiate and pro basketball coaching career as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He was also an assistant at William and Mary and Penn (reaching the Final Four) before serving at head coach at Xavier for six years and Wake Forest for four.

Staak, who lives in Lake Norman, N.C., has been involved as a coach for with the NBA for 19 years -- 12 on the bench, one with the league office and the last six as a scout with the Orlando Magic.

Previous inductees into the UConn Wing of the Hall of Fame, sponsored by People's United Bank, are Moira and Tara Buckley (Trumbull, women's soccer), Chris Smith (Bridgeport, basketball), Brian Usher (Stamford, football); Nick Giaquinto (Stratford, football); Paul and Tim Hunter (Westport, soccer); Rashamel Jones (Stamford, men's basketball); Tom Penders (Stratford, baseball and basketball); and Rita Williams (Norwalk, basketball).

UConn football coach

Randy Edsall will be the featured speaker at the induction ceremony and ex-UConn women's basketball stars Kara Wolters and Maria Conlon, and Usher will also be in attendance for the affair, which runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. There is a $35 fee for the public, $30 for UConn graduates and $20 for recent UConn graduates (2005-10). Proceeds go to scholarship funds.

In addition, a golf tournament will be held Thursday at the Country Club of Darien. Breakfast will start at 9:30 a.m. with golf at 11 a.m. Edsall, Rowe and ex-Yankee pitcher Tommy John will be among the participants. Call 203-984-4806 for information.