FOR GASPARE "GAMP" Pellegrini, the best part about relinquishing the Malvern Prep football job was being able to execute an inside handoff.
He not only knew his replacement, a guy named Kevin. He fathered him.
"This was always my master plan," Gamp Pellegrini said. "I'm not sure it was his, but I'm glad it worked out this way."
With a laugh, he added, "If the school had hired an outside coach, he would have brought in his own people. I would have been cut off, immediately. Now I can still ride over there and walk around like I'm a big shot. Nobody throws me off campus."
Gamp Pellegrini coached the Friars for 31 seasons. He won 219 games and an astounding 20 Inter-Ac League championships (16 outright) and though the cupboard was supposedly bare last fall with the return of just four starters, guess what, it wasn't.
With some help from dad, who filled an advisory role and even surprised himself by not wanting to help pull every last string ("I try to seat people in the luncheonette"), Kevin guided Malvern to a share of yet another title.
Kevin, who played football for his dad (class of '90) and then for Georgetown, said he didn't know he'd be a coach at an early age. He did picture going into his father's regular line of work, however, and that happened; Gamp co-owns an all-encompassing insurance agency and Kevin is one of his brokers. Older brother Paul also works in the office and is part of the football staff.
"I got into coaching more by seeing my dad's example than by what he said to me," Kevin said. "I loved his passion for the game. How he always kept you hungry, as a player and assistant coach. I also admired his love for Malvern, how he wanted to do it proud. That carried down to me."
Gamp previously coached at his alma mater, long-gone St. Thomas More, and then at St. Joseph's Prep, which he also steered to a title. Kevin was 6 when that happened, in '77, and has faint memories of running around Belmont Plateau with his brother during training camps, and then of being inside a wind-swept Phillies dugout at Veterans Stadium before the Hawks beat Abraham Lincoln for the City Title.
Gamp said he came close to retiring as long as 5 years ago, and ran the idea past Kevin.
"He told me, 'Don't do it with me in mind, but because it's what you want to do,' " Dad said. "When I finally did retire, I knew he wanted the job. I knew the school would take applications from others, but I had a good feeling Kevin would get it. He played for Malvern, and in college. He knew the sport and how to coach it. And he had a good education."
"He listens to me about 10 percent of the time," Gamp cracked.
Again becoming serious, he added, "A long time ago I sent him a birthday card. I mentioned that if I'd sent a note to God, asking Him to send me a son, with this and that in mind, he would have sent me Kevin. He's just a great kid. I can't find too much wrong with how he handles himself."
Already, Kevin hears folks say he's just like his father.
"That's one of the biggest compliments I can receive in my life," he said. "It's a great honor, but I've got a long way to go to deserve that."