His real first name is Gaspare, but to everyone in the Philadelphia football community, he is “Gamp” Pellegrini. He just completed his 40th season as a high school coach and at age 68, he shows no signs of slowing down.
OK, maybe a few signs.
“I have a beach chair now at practice,” Pellegrini told Ted Silary of the Philadelphia Daily News. “For the first hour, my assistants run stuff and I just wander around and think about which kids might look good in other positions, how it’s all going to fit. Sometimes I sit and watch.”
Pellegrini, the head coach at Malvern Prep, is the winner of the Maxwell Club’s 9th annual Tri-State Coach of the Year Award. A Philadelphia native, Pellegrini has coached at Malvern for 29 seasons and in 2006, he posted his 200th victory at the school. He has led Malvern to 18 Inter-Ac League championships, more than any other coach in league history.
Pellegrini also coached at St. Thomas More High School (1967-69) and St. Joseph’s Prep (1970-77) before taking over at Malvern. He won the Inter-Ac title each of his first three seasons at the school, going undefeated in league play (12-0) and posting an overall mark of 26-3.
Pellegrini’s career record as a head coach, including his 11 seasons in the Catholic League, is 259-143-9. He is 200-85-8 at Malvern.
“I know it’s 40 years, but I don’t think about it much,” he said. “I don’t want to think about it. When I do, I get tired.”
Pellegrini attended St. Thomas More High School and the University of Delaware. He served three years in the Marine Corps and in addition to coaching, he became a successful businessman. He is the president of the Snyder Moore Insurance Agencies, Inc. But he will always be identified with coaching high school football.
John DiCandilo wrote a profile on Pellegrini for the Main Line Times. He quoted Pellegrini talking about his life as a coach.
“After 400 football games as a head coach, you’d think I go to a game relatively calm, but it’s worse than ever,” Pellegrini said. “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I think about how I could be watching a game at home, instead of freezing my heiny off scouting Episcopal Academy.
“Last year, it was the Germantown Academy game. It was raining and we were winning pretty easily. I said to the official, ‘What the hell is a 68-year-old man doing here, standing in the rain.’ It’s the kids. It’s the good feeling of being coach at Malvern. It’s a prime position. It’s a No. 1 school and a No. 1 job. Plus, it’s the coaches. Several of us have been together more than 30 years.”
Throughout his coaching career, Pellegrini has carried on a tradition called “the Last Pass.” Each senior, as he completes his final practice, goes out for a pass thrown by the coach. When he brings the ball back, Pellegrini greets him with a hug and a word of thanks for his contribution to the program.
Wrote DiCandilo: “Gamp Pellegrini is that life treasure you rarely come across. Virtually everyone feels better for just becoming an acquaintance. The day (his retirement) becomes a reality, the local football scene will lose a giant of a man, who has touched thousands of hearts through his kindness, his paternal instinct and his sense of humor.”