|Tony ReginelliFootball Coach, 1969-93
Isidore Newman School
Hailing from the tiny Arkansas town of Lake Village, Tony Reginelli left that rural setting for New Orleans back in the summer of 1953 in order to attend Tulane University and play college baseball.
He has never left the Crescent City.
After a standout Green Wave career as a football running back and a baseball catch, Reginelli spent two years at Holy Cross High as an assistant coach. He left Holy Cross for Newman High along with a man who would become one of his closest friends, Ed ‘Skeets' Tuohy, who is also a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
Reginelli would not leave the coaching ranks at Newman until 1993.
After a seven-year apprenticeship in football at Newman, Reginelli became the head coach of the Greenies in 1968, a position he would hold down for 26 years. Upon retirement, he had compiled a coaching mark of 203-63-0, for a winning percentage of 76.3. He is one of just five coaches in the Greater New Orleans area to win over 200 games in his career.
But Reginelli's legacy far exceeded numbers and percentages.
He endeared himself to his players, assistant coaches and parents with a unique combination of toughness and humor, traits that made games and practices more enjoyable.
"He was just a delightful person," said former Newman All-State wide receiver Cooper Manning, whose brother Peyton also played for Reginelli. "He had kind of a mystique that made people who had no business playing football come out. He was funny but he was also tough. He would take on a player with those huge forearms of his and he could deliver a forearm shiver. So there was a tough side to him. He was a mixture, with a lot of Yogi Berra in him."
Some of his noteworthy ‘Regi-isms' included:
"I want everyone to line up alphabetically by height."
"I know you are going out to the Lakefront for a party. But please be sure not to throw your bottles and cans in the river."
"You have to be able to catch the football with your right hand and your left hand. You've got to be an amphibian."
The veteran coach was truly honored when informed of his selection to the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
"I'm very excited about this," said Reginelli, 80. "When you reach the end of your career and you think you have been given everything possible, this comes along and tops them all. There are just so many people to thank who have helped me along the way."
Although Newman did not win a state championship under Reginelli, the Greenies did manage to down powerhouse John Curtis 20-7 in district play in 1977. No opponent would hand Curtis another district loss until 2001, a string of 136 consecutive victories.
Reginelli's final game was also the final prep appearance for Peyton Manning when the Greenies fell to Northeast High 39-28 in the 1993 Class 2A regional state playoffs.
Story submitted by Bill Bumgarner of the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee.