Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
Oddly enough, in a city known for their sports teams losing, championship parades have become the norm in Philadelphia the past few years.
After Villanova pulled off the historic upset over mighty Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game, the city of brotherly love had to wait 23 years to celebrate another title when the Phillies took home the World Series in 2008.
Now, in the past two years, there have been three championship parades that strolled through Center City.
One of them happened just about two months ago as the city celebrated the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The other two came from the city’s friendly neighbors on the Main Line, the Villanova basketball team.
The jury is still out on if Villanova is a “Philly school”, mainly due to students/alumni of other Big 5 schools saying they’re not.
But on Thursday morning, everyone from all different areas, even the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney (A La Salle graduate) were in the city to celebrate the Wildcats taking home their second national title in three years after they disposed Michigan on monday night 79-62.
“We do this so much in Philadelphia now, I thought you guys would be tired of parades.” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said.
The beginning of this run of parades came two years ago when the Wildcats shocked North Carolina in the most dramatic fashion possible, a buzzer-beating three from then-junior forward Kris Jenkins.
A member that was on both of those teams is redshirt junior guard Phil Booth.
Booth broke onto the national scene back in that 2016 title game when he scored a team-high 20 points in their 77-74 win over the Tar Heels.
Having experienced both a title in the way that encapsulates March Madness the most, a buzzer-beater, and essentially a blowout victory, Booth favored one over the other.
“The way this year was the way I’d have it any way,” Booth said. “A win like that, a solid win, it just shows how great you have to play those type of games and we just did great that game so I’d rather win that way.”
Booth also made the announcement that he would be coming back for his 5th season with Villanova and not be a grad transfer.
“I know he’s committed to being a leader of this program and he’ll graduate this year and work on his masters next year,” Wright said. “But he’s so intelligent that way, he loves the process of trying to be a champion.”
Booth wasn’t anywhere close to repeating his 2016 title game performance as he scored only two points this time around, but another player off the bench delivered a memorable performance as redshirt sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo one-upped Booth by scoring a game-high 31 points.
“Two years ago Kris made that big shot, that was kind of the talk of everything and this one it was that Donte got hot, but it was a great team win, great defensive win.” Booth said.
DiVincenzo’s game-high and career-high 31 points were the most for any player off the bench in an NCAA title game, though he is seen as a “sixth starter” more than a bench player as he averages the fifth most minutes on the team with 29.3 mpg.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, I got a couple shots to go down early and Collin Gillespie and Jalen Brunson told me don’t take your foot off the gas,” DiVincenzo said. “They said you got to keep being aggressive because we were struggling offensively.”
Though he was on the roster in 2016 and played in the first eight games of the season, DiVincenzo was unable to partake in Villanova’s last championship game as a broken foot kept him sidelined for most of the year.
“I mean, it’s always sweeter when you’re out there playing,” DiVincenzo said. “There’s a different aspect to it, and I get to share a different type of bond than I did with that 2016 team."
Another player that was a member of the team but didn’t play in the 2016 championship game was redshirt-junior forward Eric Paschall.
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Paschall had to sit out the 2015-16 season after he decided to transfer from Fordham after his freshman season.
In this years tournament run, Paschall really started to make his presence felt in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight where he combined to score 26 points and haul in 17 rebounds in two games. Paschall had an impressive showing in the Final Four game against Kansas where he scored a game-high 24 points.
Even though he didn’t play in 2015-16, Paschall still received a ring and was apart of the 2016 parade.
“I’d say they’re pretty equal, in the way that it was still my first national championship but playing in this was a little more special to me.” Paschall said. “But I’d compare them to be very equal, they were just great years, both of them.”
“It’s just crazy,” he added, “just to see how much support we have and to see what we did this year is ridiculous and it’s just great to be here, very special city, great support throughout this whole year.”
Though they both have a year of eligibility remaining, Brunson and Bridges are likely headed to the NBA. If they are the only two to leave this offseason, Villanova will be one of the favorites to win it all again next year as they bring in five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and two four-star wings, Cole Swider and Brandon Slater.
“I just look forward to trying to lead these guys, coach will probably give me the confidence to do that but I’m looking forward to playing Villanova basketball for forty minutes every game.”
With Villanova looking like they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the Eagles fresh off a Super Bowl win with a young quarterback at the helm, the Sixers and their young and improving core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz and Saric, the Flyers with their young talent propelling them into the playoffs this year, and the Phillies with their young stars, Philadelphia might be in for a lot more parades in the coming years.
“Philly loves a parade, I think Philly is getting used to this and used to being winners.” Wright said.