ESPNHS' boys basketball section has today named Vito Montelli, the long-time head coach at St. Joseph (Trumbull, Conn.), its National Coach of the Year.
Montelli, 79, has been the head coach at St. Joe's for 50 seasons, and is the only varsity basketball coach in school history. This season, he led the Cadets to a 25-1 record and a second straight Class LL state title. Overall, he has guided 11 state championship teams and finished runner-up six other times, and with an 878-328 career record, he's the winningest all-time coach in New England. No other coach in the Nutmeg State has even reached 700 wins.
Over on ESPNHS' basketball blog, editor Doug Huff has more on Montelli's selection:
"It's really a humbling honor and I'm thrilled to be selected," the 79-year-old said, "because there're so many deserving coaches out there. This is special for our school, our players and our coaching staff."
Montelli and staff had only two starters, and a sixth man, back from last season's state title team. Both of the starters, though, were senior team leaders and turned in stellar seasons.
Timajh Parker, a 6-foot-7 leaper, was the top scorer at 19.8 points per game and ended with 1,354 career points. He will play next year at Towson.
The point guard, who scored 26 points in the state finals against Hillhouse (New Haven, Conn.), was 5-foot-8 James Jennings. He also averaged 17.5 points per game.
The other senior captain was 6-foot-7 Patrick Hopkins, who was blended with a pair of sophomore starters in 6-foot-3 Quincy McKnight and 6-foot-1 Jonathan Dzurenda.
The only loss came in the final game before the start of the state playoffs. Bridgeport Central, a team beaten earlier by the Cadets 92-56, upended St. Joseph 62-58.
"That was our wake-up call before the tournament," Montelli recalls. "We had no super stars, but our team chemistry was good and our players worked hard in summer and fall practice to make it happen. They deserve the credit."