TRUMBULL — It was a day to pay tribute to a beloved icon in the history of St. Joseph High School — Coach Vito Montelli, whose story, “God, Family & Basketball,” written by sports writer Chris Elsberry, was recently published.
Former players, teachers, colleagues, students and friends showed up with their families last Saturday so “Coach” could inscribe their books at a book-signing in the school gym as the line of people snaked out into the parking lot.
During his 50-year career, he won a Connecticut-record 11 state titles, coaching the St. Joseph High School boys basketball team,
“It was terrific. It was great,” Coach Montelli said of the day. “People called if they couldn’t make it. There were dozens of former players from recent years.”
Among the well-wishers was Tom Roach, retired teacher from St. Joe’s who Montelli hired as his first JV basketball coach, along with Jim Olayos, director of athletic advancement at Notre Dame-Fairfield High School and former athletic director at St. Joe’s, whose book, “The Kindness Formula,” was recently released.
“Some of the faces that I saw and some of the calls I got afterward meant a lot,” Coach Montelli said. “You always have those. When you’re friends with them, you know darn well that if you need a favor, certain ones are going to rise to the occasion all the time. That is always true.”
The Montelli story is first and foremost a story about his faith in God and how it inspired his life as husband, father of six children, and coach.
As his youngest son Tommy told Elsberry: “It’s his core. It’s the most important thing to him, followed by his family. And to many people’s surprise, basketball is important, but it’s a very distant third. This was something that was ingrained in us at a very young age, and it’s something that he tried to teach his players as well.”
As Coach Montelli explained it: “I was satisfied that it was me, my family and our faith. My wife Dolores of 62 years and I watch the Mass every morning on EWTN, and we say the rosary right after it, and then I start my day.”
Her nickname, he says, is Magee although he’s not quite sure why he gave it to her. However, he is sure of one thing: “She’s the brains in this outfit.”