Malvern – The tributes came pouring in after legendary Malvern Prep football coach Gaspare “Gamp” Pellegrini died June 9 at age 79 due to complications from cancer.
“I looked up to Gamp as a role model, especially when I was [an assistant] coach at Malvern,” said current Malvern Prep head football coach Dave Guereria. “Everything that Gamp did, he did with class – he had total respect from his players, coaches and opponents, and I think that’s really hard to [achieve] as a coach. He’s a legendary coach, and an even better person. I know the Malvern Prep community is going to sorely miss him, I’m going to sorely miss him as well.”
Pellegrini compiled a 278-14 overall record at Malvern Prep from 1978 to 2008, winning numerous InterAc titles.
“Gamp wasn’t one to put on airs – what you saw with Gamp is what you got,” said former Malvern Prep athletic director Chuck Chinici. “It soon became obvious that the moment Gamp set foot on our campus in 1978, was the moment that he started to bleed Malvern blue and white.”
Pellegrini coached at St. Thomas More from 1967-69 and St. Joseph’s Prep from 1970-77 before coming to Malvern Prep.
“He’s the most caring person I know, such a good person to be around,” said Joe Sells, who worked as an assistant coach for Pellegrini in 1974 at St. Joe Prep and retired with Gamp at Malvern Prep in 2008. “Gamp and I were like brothers. Our relationship went way beyond football, and we built a friendship that you can’t even put into words. He treated my entire family – I don’t just mean my wife but my brother, sister, parents – like they were his family. For all the arguing the two of us did putting game plans together [laughs], he’s really a special guy.”
Jim Stewart, former long-time Head of School at Malvern Prep, said, ““We hired Gamp in 1978 to be our coach to carry on the great football tradition that we had on the seventies. He was the perfect fit as a coach and mentor for our student athletes. Gamp was a gentleman who aligned himself with the school’s mission. He established a great program that we continue to strive to match. We are going to miss him but we are comforted by the fact that he is with our Lord and his friend, Fr. David Duffy.”
Chinici said, “As Malvern Prep athletic director through the 1980s, I had one heck of the job putting together a football schedule. Nobody wanted to play Malvern Prep unless they were loaded with talent and confident that they could beat us. Therefore, I was resigned to either scheduling a Council Rock, CB East, Downingtown or some other local Philly high school power of the 1980s.
“After showing him the upcoming schedule, Gamp’s annual response would be, ‘Chinici, you’re killing me.’ Then he’d go out and have a 9-1 season.
Pellegrini was President of the Snyder Moore Insurance Agencies and is survived by his beloved wife of 51 yrs. Mary D. (nee Hennelly), his sons Paul G., Kevin F. (Kaitlin) and his daughter Tara T. (Brian) McNulty, his 8 grandchildren; his sister Penny Bellino and his brother Charles. Gamp’s son Kevin became a successful head coach at Malvern after his father retired in 2008.
Malvern assistant football coach Jeffrey Carroll said, “I played for Gamp (1998-2001) and later coached with him when his son Kevin was head coach. I’ll remember Gamp for teaching us how to lose and how to win. As far what a coach imparts to his players, there’s little difference between the two. At our senior banquet Gamp said what is probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me: ‘We may have more players like him, but we certainly won’t have many more boys like him.’ I try to coach my guys now with that in mind – that character is far more important than talent.”
Chinici said, “Having taught at Malvern for 37 years, I saw firsthand how his players loved and respected Coach Gamp. Even after his retirement in 2008, whenever on campus, it became common place to see a crowd of former Friar football players gathered around Coach Gamp to share memories or simply give him a hug.
“Sadly, Gamp has passed but it goes without saying that his legacy at Malvern Prep will live on forever. He will be missed by all of us.”
Relatives and friends are invited to Pellegrini’s Visitation on Wednesday June 14 from 4-8 p.m. at the Malvern Prep Chapel. There also will be a visitation June 15 at 10 a.m. at SS. Simon & Jude Church on Rte. 3 and 352 in West Chester, followed by a funeral Mass at noon, with private internment at SS. Peter & Paul Cemetery.
Contributions may be made to the Gamp Pellegrini Scholarship c/o Malvern Prep 418 South Warren Ave. Malvern PA 19355.