St. Joseph’s Vito Montelli a gym rat, even in retirement

Trinity Catholic coach Mike Walsh (left) and former St. Joseph coach Vito Montelli, close friends, prior to last week's game.

Anyone who thought retirement was going to mean winter trips to Florida or afternoons in front of the television for former St. Joseph boys basketball coach Vito Montelli, well, doesn’t know Montelli.

The only coach the Cadets had ever had in the sport, Montelli stepped down at the end of last season, following the last of his 11 state championships.

Montelli’s resume is stunning: 878 wins, the most by any New England coach in the sport, over 50 years.

Montelli may not be on the bench anymore, but he is still in the gymnasium for every game, is a regular at the school, where he still maintains an office, and is a short walk away for his successor, former assistant Chris Watts.

“I come in almost every day,” Montelli said prior to St. Joseph’s home game last week with Trinity Catholic. “I have a little space they gave me in what is the senior lounge. I do what I’ve always done. I try to take care of business, but my time is mine. I hang around, and if I want to go home early, I go home.”

Basketball has always been Montelli’s profession, hobby and passion. So understandably, the break, from an emotional standpoint, has been difficult.

“I love watching the games,” Montelli said. “Sure, I miss it, but it was time. The way my legs feel, my hip. It was the best thing I could do, I thought.”

At 11-1, the Cadets currently have the best overall record of any FCIAC team under Watts, who knows he has a great resource to tap if necessary.

“I try to stay out of Chris’ hair,” Montelli said. “If he has a question he asks me. He’s doing a good job and the kids respect him. He has a good staff he put together.”

It is hard to imagine Montelli not remaining a fixture at the court that bears his name, though after a half century in a different capacity.

“It’s been great; they’ve been good to me here,” Montelli said. “They let me come and go as I please, and my wife and family understand. It is different. Do I feel it? Yeah. You had something for so long and you let it go. It’s not taken away from you. It takes a while to adjust.”