A national search for a women’s basketball coach at Villanova has concluded with naming Denise Dillon as the successor to Harry Perretta. The search spanned the country, but the result was local. Dillon is a member of the Class of ’96 playing for Perretta during her time at Nova. And she retained local ties coaching for the last 17 years at Drexel University.
“I’m at a loss for words when people reach out asking me how I feel,” Dillon said. “It’s surreal. It’s hard to believe that I am in this position. To be the successor to the person who started this for me. What you (Perretta) has taught me has opened the door to many opportunities.”
It was an announcement that Villanova has not made in over 42 years. At Drexel coach Dillon complied a 329 – 204 record. She is the winningest coach in program history. Over the past four years Dillon won over 20 games per season seven times. The Dragons claimed the CAA Championship four times. The highlight was winning the WNIT Title in 2013.
“At every turn, no matter who we talked to, whether it was our committee, outside, everything kept pointing back to Denise at every turn,” said Villanova Athletic Director Mark Jackson. “We had a lot of qualified candidates. Whether it was on the court, off the court, everything pointed to Denise Dillon.”
This past season Dillon’s Drexel squad went 23 – 7 and was 16 – 2 in conference sharing the crown. Dillon was named the Co-Coach of the Year.
She played for Perretta from 1993-96 on the main line. Dillon scored 1,355 points and took down 677 rebounds, and was named all-Big Five three-times, entering the Big Five Hall of Fame in 2018.
Prior to her time on the Villanova campus Dillon graduated from Cardinal O’Hara High School.
Off the court Drexel players who benefited from her leadership as five of her players won the CAA’s prestigious Dean Ehlers Leadership Award. Dillon learned many traits she applied at Drexel from lessons learned from Perretta.
“How much I have learned from Harry is forever, ” said Dillon. “It didn’t end with me as a player. He is so great about helping everyone in the game and in helping me. I was settled when Harry said to me it doesn’t matter where you are, the relationships you built will continue. You’ll remain close to any player as you continue to work on it, and appreciate people outside of the wins and losses.”
The new coach inherits a team that has a rising star in Maddy Siegrist. There is not a lot of playing experience on the squad, but players that have been there will be an asset for the new coach.
“The important part of coming into a program or returning with a group is counting in the veteran leadership,” Dillon said as she looked forward. “We have a great player on a young Maddy Siegrist. She has a lot on her shoulders and she wants that. She is capable of it. Then you look to the veterans. You always start at the top with the veteran players then work your way down. With Maddy were counting on her ability and experience to help the team from the beginning.”
Dillon looks to put her mark on the program with intensity on the defensive end.
“Our girls are going to learn early and often the importance of turning it up a notch on the defensive end,” Dillon said.
During the virtual press conference it was confirmed the Dillon’s assistant Amy Mallon was named the new head coach at Drexel.
So as much as things change, they sometimes remain the same.
Villanova will play Drexel in the 2020-21 season.
“Who scheduled that game?” said Dillon.
Written By: Glenn Papazian