Nick Economopoulos, longtime CIAC, AAU girls basketball coach, dies

Nick Economopoulos, seen here in 1993 discussing strategy with his daughter, Christie, during a Lyman Hall girls basketball scrimmage, died Thursday. He was 72.

Nick Economopoulos, seen here in 1993 discussing strategy with his daughter, Christie, during a Lyman Hall girls basketball scrimmage, died Thursday. He was 72.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

Nick Economopoulos, the former longtime girls basketball coach on both the high school and Amateur Athletic Union level, died early Thursday morning. He was 72.

Economopoulos, a Wallingford resident at the time of his death, coached high school girls basketball a combined 35 seasons at Lyman Hall, East Catholic and Coginchaug. He finished with 619 victories.

Economopoulos won 371 games and back-to-back Class L state championships in 1985 and 1986, defeating Lee (New Haven) and Platt (Meriden), respectively. The Trojans also landed in the L final three other times during Economopoulos’ 20-year tenure (1979, 1982 and 1991).

“Nick was such a fiery guy and so competitive,” said former Cheshire girls basketball coach Joe Ticotsky, who coached against Economopoulos. “He was the funniest guy I knew. He could sit there and tell you stories about anything.”

Economopoulos also won a pair of Class M state championships at East Catholic in 2002 and 2004. Those seven state finals’ appearances at East Catholic and Lyman Hall are the only ones by those programs.

Two of Economopoulos’ children went on to coach. His daughter, Christie Madancy, not only coached at Sheehan and the University of New Haven, but also was the school’s athletic director for a period.

Nick got to enjoy his son’s first state championship up close. He sat at the end of the bench during Hand’s entire run to the Division III state championship this past season, the program’s first. The Tigers were coached by Jimmy Economopoulos, named the New Haven Register’s Area Coach of the Year.

“We are overwhelmed as a family with the outpouring of support and kind words people have sent our way,” Jimmy Economopoulos said. “It is a testament to the many lives our father impacted throughout his many years as a teacher, coach and friend to so many. He will be greatly missed.

Ticotsky spent some time as Nick Economopoulos’ assistant at Lyman Hall, starting the season of that second straight state championship. He remembered where the actual job interview took place: in Nick’s living room.

“He was such a family man,” Ticotsky said. “He was about so much more than basketball.”

As big of a giant as Economopoulos was on the high school scene, he was just as big on the AAU circuit. He founded the Connecticut Starters, still in existence today and was the first chairman of AAU girls basketball in Connecticut.

According to Jack Bethke, the president of AAU in Connecticut, Economopoulos was responsible for helping bring an AAU national tournament for the first time to the state, in Hartford in 1992, where Sue Bird and Kara Lawson were among those players competing.

“He wanted to bring a national tournament to Connecticut and we did bring it to Hartford,” Bethke said. “We started off with 150 girls (in AAU). By the time he left as chairman, we had close to 3,000. There were some bumps and bruises along the way, but Nick was very instrumental in putting AAU girls basketball in Connecticut on the map.”

Tributes poured in for Economopoulos on the CT Starters AAU Girls Basketball Facebook page all day on Thursday.

In addition to Christie and Jimmy, Nick Economopoulos is survived by his wife, Sue and daughters Nicki, Lynn and Shani. Funeral arrangements are pending.; @nhrJoeMorelli