Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Harry Booth, former St. Joseph’s baseball and basketball coach, dies at 82

Booth also was a volunteer assistant on Villanova's 1985 NCAA championship basketball team.

Harry Booth coached the St. Joseph's basketball team from 1974-78.
Harry Booth coached the St. Joseph's basketball team from 1974-78.Read moreFile

A rare two-sport varsity head coach at St. Joseph’s, leading the baseball and later the men’s basketball team, Harry Booth died Monday at 82 after a short illness.

Booth, who played baseball and basketball at St. Joe’s, also was a volunteer assistant coach at Villanova, working under Rollie Massimino when the Wildcats won the 1985 NCAA title.

The Hawks’ baseball coach from 1965-74, Booth still holds the program record for career winning percentage (.633). As basketball coach, Booth was in charge on Hawk Hill from 1974-78, compiling a 44-61 record.

“He was a tremendous basketball mind.”

Former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas, on Harry Booth

A 1962 graduate, Booth was a two-sport captain, starring on the baseball diamond and earning all-Middle Atlantic Conference honors twice as a center fielder. He led the Hawks in runs, extra-base hits, and stolen bases as a junior and a senior.

Booth was a walk-on reserve on the basketball team that earned three straight NCAA Tournament bids, played on the 1961 Final Four team, and averaged 5.1 points a game as a senior in 1961-62.

“South Philly tough — that’s who he was,” said former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas, who became close to Booth when they were assistants under Massimino and stayed close to him, getting together with their wives for dinner once a week for the past dozen years. “He was tough physically, mentally. In all the good ways.”

Booth graduated from Bishop Neumann High School.

“South Philly tough — that’s who he was.”

Former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas, on Harry Booth

“He was a tremendous basketball mind,” said Lappas, now a CBS basketball analyst. “I leaned on him for years and years. Let me tell you this, Rollie loved him. But the thing he brought to the basketball staff — he wasn’t even getting paid, as a volunteer. He was there every day. He had kind of a flexible job, in sales. He would tell me, ‘You guys are here all day. You are the X-and-O guys. I’m here to give support, to motivate.’”

Not just the players, Lappas said. The coaches, too.

“He talked me off the ledge many times in those early years,” Lappas said.

“When I arrived at St. Joe’s back in the fall of 2008, Harry was one of the first guys to engage me,” said current Hawks baseball coach Fritz Hamburg in a statement from St. Joe’s. “He had so much pride and love for the program and as a new coach, it was reassuring to have Harry as a friend and mentor. He helped me to understand the history of the program, and I had the chance to experience his love and passion for the game, the program, and the players he coached. Over the years, I also have seen how much his players loved and cared for him.”