Classy. Legend. Amazing.
Those were some of the words used to describe former Malvern Prep football coach Gaspare "Gamp" Pellegrini.
A high school football coach for 45 seasons - 31 for the Friars - Mr. Pellegrini died Friday afternoon at age 79 from complications related to cancer.
"He was a great guy, a family guy, a man's man, spoke from the heart," said Penn Charter football coach Tommy Coyle. "He's certainly going to be missed."
Coyle was an assistant at Penn Charter under Bill Gallagher and Brian McCloskey from 1987 to 1999. He said the Inter-Ac battles against Mr. Pellegrini and the Friars were remarkable.
"Gamp was a fierce competitor and wanted to win badly," Coyle said. "But once the game was over, win or lose, he was the first to say good things about your team and players."
"His teams were always well prepared," said Gallagher, who also coached at Episcopal Academy.
Current Episcopal football coach Todd Fairlie said Mr. Pellegrini was an "all-time legend within the inter-Ac."
"Where the league is now probably has much to do with what Gamp did," Fairlie said "He set the standard for a long time at Malvern, and everyone has pushed to compete with them since."
In the mid 1970s, when he was the assistant headmaster at Malvern Prep, Jim Stewart Sr. was involved in the hiring of Mr. Pellegrini.
"He was the perfect fit for the job at that time," Stewart said. "He got along with everyone, including the kids, and was very giving of his time."
Stewart also served at Malvern Prep as athletic director, teacher, headmaster (1990 to 2006) and president (2006 to 2012). He said Mr. Pellegrini was more of a close friend than a colleague.
Stewart, who still teaches part-time at the school, said he sent a text message to Mr. Pellegrini's son, Kevin, on Saturday morning.
"I wrote something like, 'Your dad was one of the finest human beings I've ever known,' " Stewart said.
Stewart's son, also named Jim, is Holy Ghost Prep's athletic director. He is a 1986 graduate of Malvern Prep.
"Just from getting to know Gamp when I was there, he was a 100 percent class act," the younger Stewart said. "He was such a gentleman, and he loved Malvern Prep beyond belief."
Current Malvern Prep football coach Dave Gueriera's late father, Bobby, and Mr. Pellegrini were friends while growing up in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia.
Gueriera, who was previously the head coach at West Chester East, was announced as the Friars' new coach in February.
"Gamp put in a good word for me and wrote a letter of recommendation," he said.
Gueriera was a quarterbacks coach for two years at Malvern Prep under Kevin Pellegrini, who succeed his father as the school's football coach in 2009 and coached the Friars for five seasons. Mr. Pellegrini served for a time as his assistant.
"I got to see how Gamp coached, how he interacted with the kids," Gueriera said. "I was like a sponge those two years. I tried to soak in everything I could from him."
Mike Matta coached against Mr. Pellegrini several times, both as the head coach at Downingtown East, which opened in 2003, and as the defensive coordinator at the old Downingtown High.
"He was a crafty guy, a great play caller," Matta said. "He always had something up his sleeve. You would never know know what to expect from his team."
Downingtown went 11-3 and advanced to the PIAA District 1 Class 4A subregional semifinal playoffs in 2001 but lost to the Friars, 35-7, in a Week 3 nonleague matchup.
Mr. Pellegrini mostly used a wing-T scheme on offense.
"If you stopped that he would always have an answer," Matta said. "He was pretty impressive. He was by no means a one-trick pony."