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Follow all the coverage of boys high school basketball throughout the state on their way to Mohegan Sun Arena, the site of this year's championship weekend, March 15-16.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A legend departs

I honestly never thought I would see the day Vito Montelli would retire from coaching the St. Joseph boys basketball team.

Sure, he's 80 and some think he should have retired YEARS ago. But once you have been coaching as long as Vito Montelli has, it becomes that much harder to step away from the action, from something you love to do.

But step away he did, leaving it in the hands of Chris Watts, the former alum and standout at Providence who had been a loyal assistant for the past nine years. Hopefully, he is given the opportunity to grow in the position and people can try to avoid any inevitable comparisons for now.

When you see any coach depart after 50 years on the job with a state-record 878 wins, it's sad to see for one reason in particular. Whether you like Montelli or not, you won't see someone coach that long again.

Once Bobby Hurley leaves the stage at St. Anthony's, or Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy, or Bob DeMayo at North Haven baseball, who also has over 800 wins and has been coaching since 1959 in one spot, you won't see anyone reach 50 years or 1,000 wins anymore who started coaching in the last decade.

Anyone who started coaching in the last five years in any sport, I would hazard a guess 1 percent of them would reach 25 years in the same sport at one school. It's tougher to coach in 2011 than it was in 1981. There's a lot more to it. And more often than not, those who resign do so before getting fired.

Next in line on the active boys basketball wins list is Tony Falzarano of Tourtellotte, who formerly coached at Putnam. He's third with 588 wins. Fourth is Crosby's Nick Augelli with 569.

And there are others with 500-plus wins like Trinity Catholic's Mike Walsh and Holy Cross' Ed Generali. How long any of them coach is anyone's guess. But anyone who follows them, likely won't be in that capacity for nearly as long.

It's a nature of the business of coaching today. Don't stay in one place too long. Get out before they get you.

So enjoy these coaches from afar while you can, the Bob DeMayos, the Gary Palladinos from Notre Dame-West Haven hoops. Some will disagree with me that coaches should know when it's time to go, that they overstay their welcome.

Maybe so.

But I ask you to put yourself in Montelli's shoes: would you be able to make the decision he made today after 50 years in one place? 40? 30? Or would someone make that decision for you?

Vito Montelli got a chance to make it.
The sport of basketball in Connecticut has lost its patriarch.

Vito Montelli retires

Vito Montelli retired as St. Joseph boys' basketball coach Wednesday morning after 50 years and a state-record 878 victories.
"I still have thoughts, 'Did I do the right thing?' And I'm convinced I did," said Montelli, 80.
The press conference making it official was held at Vazzano's Four Seasons. Chris Watts, a former player at St. Joseph and an assistant coach, was named Montelli's successor.
"It's an honor for me to take over the program for Coach," said Watts, a 43-year-old East Haven resident.
The Cadets won their second straight Class LL state championship last March over Hillhouse. The team finished a unanimous No. 1 in the final Register Top 10 poll.
Montelli was the only boys' basketball coach at St. Joseph before Watts took over Wednesday.