The decision to step down as Villanova’s head women’s basketball coach was a difficult one for Harry Perretta, but the toll of more than 40 years on the sideline was something he couldn’t ignore.
That’s why Perretta felt that Wednesday was the time to announce his retirement, effective at the end of the 2019-20 season, one week before his 42nd campaign on the Main Line begins.
Perretta, 64, who enters his final season with 765 career victories, said it was “a number of different things” with his health that he chose not to specify as the reason for leaving a job he loves.
“It’s just the number of years of coaching, plus I’ve had some health issues over the last couple of years,” he said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. “I just said to myself, ‘My body’s just so beat up, like I can’t stand at practice for two hours any more.’
“It’s not fair to the kids to coach them that way. I did it the last year and the year before, and every year it just got harder and harder. It’s different things and I’m getting treatments for some of it. The treatments are sometimes worse than the ailment. It takes a toll on my body.”
Perretta, whose career victories rank seventh among active NCAA Division I coaches and 13th all-time, has led the Wildcats to 20 seasons of 20 victories, including seven in the last eight years. The Cats went to their eighth straight postseason tournament last season, reaching the second round of the Women’s NIT.
Villanova also has won 12 outright Big 5 titles under Perretta, including a 4-0 mark last season, and shared five others.
Perretta said his health issues prevented him from reaching his goal of remaining at Villanova until his two sons graduated from the university. His older son, Stephen, is a junior, while Michael is a freshman.
“That would have meant I would have to coach this year plus three more, and just the thought of it became so overbearing,” he said. “So it was a tough decision from that standpoint because I wanted to be with my kids. I wish I could stay longer but I can’t.”
Always quick with a quip or a funny story, Peretta has led the Wildcats to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances and 11 berths in the WNIT. The Cats reached the 1982 AIAW Final Four, captured Big East Tournament championships in 1986, 1987, and 2003 and regular-season titles in the conference in 1986 and 1987.
He coached four Big East players of the year, including Shelly Pennefather, who won the Margaret Wade Trophy as the national women’s player of the year in 1987.
Perretta also is known for a focus on academics. In his time at Villanova, 99 percent of his players who stayed all four years have received a degree.
Villanova president Rev. Peter M. Donohue said “words cannot fully capture the gratitude” that the university has for Perretta.
“Harry has built an incredible legacy that stands out among the nation’s most prolific coaches,” he said. “He has left an indelible mark on this university and will always live in the heart of Villanova.”
Now that he’s retiring, Perretta knows his fellow coaches in the Big East and the Big 5 will be honoring him, a thought he refers to as “brutal.”
He said DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto told him “I could have anything I want as long as it’s under $10,000.”
Perretta will stay at Villanova for one more year after his retirement as a special assistant to the athletic director.
“Villanova’s going to give me a job for a year, something for me to do,” he said.