After 23 years of coaching and 400 wins, Villanova coach Harry Perretta wouldn’t stop doing what he does best: teaching.
He had just defeated the Temple women’s basketball team, 60-55, for his 400th win, but his job hadn’t ended. The lights from overhead were dimmed, security was trying to clear the arena in preparation for a men’s game, and all the fans had left. But Perretta was still coaching Villanova’s leading scorer, Trish Juhline.
Perretta, the 29th winningest active collegiate coach in the country, has been at Villanova for the past 23 seasons.
“For me, 400 is just knowing you’ve been around for a long time,” Perretta said. “So as long as I still like it, I’ll try to stay around a little longer.”
It was also a milestone for Temple coach Dawn Staley, though a dubious one. It was Staley’s first loss as a coach, but that fact didn’t dampen her respect for Perretta’s achievement.
“That’s great, it’s awesome to be a part of 400 victories and I congratulated him,” Staley said. “He spent a lot of time in women’s basketball. Unfortunately, I was on the losing part of his 400th win, but hopefully he’ll stay in long enough so I can get the win on my 400th.”
Perretta has seen a lot of basketball in the Philadelphia area. He earned All-Catholic honors at Monsignor Bonner High School in Upper Darby, Pa., before graduating from Lycoming College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in social studies. He also earned a secondary teaching certificate.
The teaching baskground has come in handy for Perretta in his coaching career. In 1995, he earned a Master’s degree in Education from Villanova.
Even with his love of the sport, he’s not sure if he’ll be around long enough to see Staley hit her 400th win.
“I hope I’m not in the grave by then,” he said. “The only thing that it tells me is that I’ve been coaching for a long time. This group of kids is a really nice group of kids. I’m glad they were able to win.”
The players that helped him get 400 were proud of their venerable coach.
“It’s fun to be a part of because he’s a really good coach,” Juhline said. “A lot of the players came back from years before and it just shows how much of an impact he’s had on them. It’s a great thing to be a part of right now. 400 wins is a lot, so that’s really great.”
The game was a reunion of sorts for Staley and Perretta. Back when Staley was a senior at Dobbins Tech High School in Philadelphia, Perretta recruited her.
“Yeah we talked to her but I think she had pretty much made up her mind that she was going to go to Virginia,” Perretta said. “I was teasing her before the game, I told her that they were going to introduce her as the two-time medalist and introduce me as the two-time MVP of the 6-foot league. They won two gold medals, I won three observatory championships.”
After the game, as he spoke to Juhline, he also took time out of his coaching to shoot the ball around with a toddler on the court. Even without medals, Perretta’s teaching skills and coaching nature have propelled him to number 400.