Friday morning, Harry Perretta, sitting on a couch in his Villanova women’s basketball office, dressed for practice. Villanova sweatshirt, blue shorts, white sneakers and socks.
You only had to look at the walls, though. A lot of hooks still up, but most of what they’d been holding up, the frames and photos, mementos of Perretta’s 42 years in charge of Villanova women’s basketball, had already been taken down, moved to his house in Drexel Hill. Boxes on the ground also made it clear this was a time of transition in this office.
You think of all the craziness of the last couple of days, whole segments of society shutting down, and virtually all of sports. Just before 7 Thursday night, it hit you. Harry Perretta is now retired. No WNIT for his team. No more games. You text him with thoughts.
The thoughts are simple: What a freaking run. One of a kind.
“You caught me off guard,’’ Perretta said Friday morning. “I was just thinking about going to Giant for a case of water.”
The packing started a couple of weeks ago.
“That wall, that wall,’’ Perretta said. “I’m leaving the stuff that’s for players, because if a new coach comes in, they might want to display that.”
Team of the year, a Wanamaker award for best college team in Philadelphia, that stays on. Player-of-the-year plaques. Trophies on a bookshelf for "tournaments that we won. They’re not mine. They’re the program’s. I just want to get everything else.”
What’s in that box?
“Oh, they’re basketballs from camp,’’ Perretta said, laughing. “Just give [the balls] to kids in the neighborhood. We had all these extra shirts. People walking around Drexel Hill with Villanova girls’ basketball on their [T-shirts], it’s true. Go to people’s houses and give them out. It’s kind of funny.”
There’s a poster on the floor, the poster everybody who showed up for Perretta’s last home game could sign.
“I’m leaving it on the floor so people can take a better look,’’ Perretta said. “I’ll take it home next week.”
Maybe Villanova could have gone on a WNIT run, but ending 42 years in some near-empty gym wouldn’t have seemed right.
“You’re the third person now who said the same thing,’’ said Perretta, who had a perfect sendoff in his last on-campus game, shocking first-place DePaul on senior night, with so many former Perretta players in the building.
“I talked to Mike McLaughlin yesterday from Penn. He said the exact same thing. In a weird way, it ended perfect for me. I never thought about that.”
For him personally, “it ended in a fairy tale, whatever you want to call it.”
Perretta was part of every Big East Tournament from the start, the only coach to say that, and his very last game was in the Big East Tournament.
“Nostalgia people look at it that way,’’ Perretta said. “I don’t look at it that way. I don’t think about that stuff. But a lot of people do.”
Does he find himself getting emotional?
“Off and on,’’ Perretta said. “More when I’m by myself. You know, when I sit there. I guess the virus thing, it’s taken your thought away from that. Now, you’re thinking, I hope nobody gets sick that you know; you hope nobody gets sick. Then you’re afraid you’re going to get yourself sick. It’s crazy. You don’t have the time to think about as much.”
Watching games this past week on television, though, he thought to himself, “Wow, it’s really coming to an end now.”
He gets to thinking about what he’ll miss.
“The weird part for me was, maybe I’m just different, I don’t know, I never really liked the games,’’ Perretta said, repeating a thought he’d mentioned before. “It was always secondary, to the practices. Two of the kids came into the office. We’re sitting talking. The games were always secondary to that stuff. I don’t know if I’ll miss the games.”
What was he talking about with his players?
“We were talking about The Bachelor,’’ Perretta said. “When they come in, we don’t talk about basketball. We may talk about it briefly, but I try to keep it away from that.”
So, The Bachelor …
“It was a gigantic discussion, like a half-hour discussion,’’ Perretta said. “Like, I don’t understand it.”
Does he watch it?
“No, I don’t,’’ Perretta said.
You might think, nope, he wouldn’t. Except you don’t know with Perretta. He was a huge All My Children devotee for decades.
“The girls watch it religiously,’’ Perretta said of The Bachelor. “I was asking them, would you go on the show? Bare your soul to the country? I couldn’t do it.”
That’s the part he’ll miss, figuring out if he’d just committed an NCAA violation because a player bought him a hot chocolate with student points because he didn’t have any money. (Doesn’t matter now.)
“If they’re close to your house, they’ll stop over,’’ Perretta said. “I’ll miss that.”
There was nothing even surprising about this conversation. Philly hoops probably leads the nation in quirky characters. Quirky guys, they can draw you in -- or make you want to keep your distance. There was never a moment when Harry Perretta didn’t draw you in. Didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, how you’d come across him.
Perretta is a basketball guy — don’t let him fool you. He’d called Swarthmore men’s coach Landry Kosmalski, said he was going to try to get to Swarthmore’s NCAA Tournament game Saturday night.
“Oh, God,’’ Perretta said of how the world changed since that phone call.
It did seem that he couldn’t walk into a high school gym even in recent weeks without its turning into memory lane, a father of a current player working at a game, a former player of Perretta’s being there, too.
When will be that last day he’ll call this his office?
“I guess the first day they hire the new coach,’’ said Perretta, who has been named a special assistant to the athletic director for a year, just as Andy Talley had been when he retired as Villanova’s football coach. “Whatever they want me to do after that, I’ll do.”
So call him retired if you want. Perretta said he knows now it is over.
“You’re not thinking about basketball,’’ he said. “You’re just thinking of all the virus stuff …”
Thinking about his player from Denmark, if she can get home. Hearing about toilet paper shortages …