After 42 years coaching Villanova women's team, Perretta says time is right to retire

Flying is not Harry Perretta's thing.

The Villanova women's basketball coach has been known to drive himself hours and hours halfway across the country to get to games that his players and assistant coaches get whisked to in a charter jet.

"It's one of the quirks we all know about Harry," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, a longtime Perretta friend.

One year, Perretta had driven to Chicago for a game at DePaul and got snowed in and had to stay an extra day. He passed the time by watching the Super Bowl in a Lincoln Park bar with Bruno.

Perretta was in town again Friday, but this time for his last run as Bruno's sideline counterpart. Perretta is retiring at the end of this season, after an astonishing 42 years of coaching the Villanova women, which ties as the longest tenure of coaching one team in all divisions of NCAA women's basketball history.

As most host schools do when a visiting coach is on a retirement tour, DePaul showered Perretta with gifts, even a pregame video. Bruno thought it would be funny to add in round trip airline tickets to anywhere in the world, good annually for Perretta's lifetime.

An expensive gift yes, but only if Perretta would actually use them. Wink-wink.

"We knew that Harry would never use those, since he doesn't like to fly, so it was a safe 'gift,' " Bruno said with a laugh. Perretta appreciated Bruno's humor.

In fact, there's a lot that Perretta and Bruno appreciate about each other.

The two old friends, who have coached in more than 2,300 games combined and have won more than 1,500 games while coaching a total of 76 years, have been tight for three decades, a rarity in the cutthroat world of coaching.

"What I really like about Harry is there is a maturity of competitiveness with him," Bruno said. "When our teams play, we go at it like cats and dogs. But when the game ends, it's over. There are no grudges, we are friends just as we were before.

"It's so refreshing and healthy when it can be like that. We know that we are doing the same thing (teaching basketball) and we are in this together."

Actually, Perretta and Bruno aren't doing exactly the same thing. In fact, for as much as the two have in common off the court, they are about as different on the court as they can be.

While Bruno favors an up-tempo, high octane offense that is regularly one of the highest-scoring in the country, Perretta's teams are methodical, slow down and defense-oriented.

Once he retires, Perretta says he's going to get to the bottom of how Bruno's teams can sustain that kind of high offensive production year after year.

"I don't know how they do it, but next fall I plan on going to a practice at DePaul to see for myself," Perretta said. "Doug is the best developer of offense and offensive skills that I have ever seen and not just in women's basketball. I'm talking men's basketball and the NBA, too. It's been unbelievable what he's been able to do there year after year.

"Playing against his teams is tough, but it's also been really fun."

The 64-year-old Perretta, who was 22 when he was named coach at Villanova in 1978, says his body is starting to wear down from the grind of coaching. He finds his most joy at practice, where he can teach his players in a relaxed environment. He's going to miss that time.

He's also going to miss his players, 90 of whom showed up at Villanova's alumni game last weekend to pay tribute to their old coach.

"Harry is going to be missed, too," Bruno said. "The game is going to miss him. Our league (the Big East) is going to miss him. He's a great teacher and coach and he's also a great human."

Great heights: The DePaul women climbed to No. 11 in The Associated Press poll this week, the highest ranking for the Blue Demons since they finished No. 9 in the final poll in 2011. That season, DePaul reached its highest ever national ranking of No. 7 on Feb. 21, 2011.

The Blue Demons, first in the Big East standings, host Georgetown at 2 p.m. Sunday at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park.

• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

Villanova coach Harry Perretta and DePaul coach Doug Bruno are great friends. Perretta is retiring after the season. Associated Press
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