PHILADELPHIA >> This is getting to be old hat for Villanova fans.
For the second time in three years, the Wildcats were the toast of the town, feted at a parade through Center City to toast another NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship team.
The party took on the atmosphere of a festive family outing — especially to the predominantly young crowd of students decked out in their Villanova finest.
All along the parade route along Market Street west of City Hall, thousands of blue-and-white-clad Villanova fans were joined by family members who shared Wildcat championship memories.
Mark McIlvaine of East Norriton, who was the Wildcats’ basketball manager from 1995 to 1999, watched the Villanova players boarded the parade buses at 23rd and Market Streets and reflected on his own Villanova memories.
“I know a lot of these Villanova guys,” said. “I’ve been a Nova fan for a long time – my Dad [Albert Price McIlvaine] graduated from Villanova in 1972, and my brother Steve [Class of 1997] was at the championship game Monday in San Antonio.”
McIlvaine pointed to his son, 10-year-old Ryan, who was wearing a Villanova sweatshirt, and laughingly said, “He’ll be a Villanova graduate of the Class of 2029.”
Standing a few feet away, Marty Cocci of Havertown was joined by his daughter Dorothy, who was carrying a sign reading, “Havertown Nova Nation.”
“I was a freshman here in 1985, when they won their first national title,” said the elder Cocci. “I was at the parade that year, and it was exciting, just like this one - I remember Rollie Massimino and Eddie Pinckney.”
A few minutes later, as the buses started to move toward City Hall, a cold wind whipped through the crowd.
“This parade is a little colder than the one we had in 2016, but I’m still hyped,” said Villanova junior Franco Sacco. “Mikal Bridges and my cousin were in the same grade at Archbishop Carroll the year that Mikal was there.”
The Villanova players and coach Jay Wright began tossing T-shirts into the vocal, spirited crowd.
Two of the shirts (tossed by Phil Booth and Eric Paschall) were caught by a quartet of Academy of Notre Dame freshmen on spring break – Erin Maguire, Molly McCarthy, Molly Seirang and Sam Shreiner.
“This parade has been great,” said Maguire. “It’s a little cold today, and I don’t know if there’s as many people here as there was for the 2016 parade, but the true Villanova fans came out today.”
Scott Burnham, a 1995 Villanova grad, said, “This parade is as great as the one we had in 2016. This team is a classy organization, they do it the right way, they’re a good role model for the kids.”
The parade had a dreamlike feel for Nikki Maloney, a children’s book author from Villanova and a former Rosemont College basketball player.
Maloney, accompanied by her daughter Tatum and her daughter’s friend Alexia Louca (both are freshmen at Harriton High School), laughed and said, “I can’t believe this [championship and parade] is happening – it’s still sinking in. I have coached basketball through the years and am so proud of the Cats and their quality ‘team’ basketball.”
For Villanova senior Melissa June, carrying a stack of “Nova Nation” signs as a parade volunteer, the parade was a nice exclamation point for her college career.
“I signed up as a volunteer yesterday,” said June, adding with a laugh, “It’s my senior year, so I wanted to go out with a bang.”
As the Villanova players spoke from Dilworth Park next to City Hall, Villanova sophomore Ryan Blakeley of Norton, Mass., attired in a Villanova flag, said, “It’s awesome to see the Villanova community and Philly come together like this.”
A few feet from Blakeley, middle schooler Kate Vogele wore a large smile and said, “This parade is awesome, it’s great. I’m a big Villanova fan - both of my parents went to Villanova.”
Bonnie Behm, who has been an employee at Villanova for 19 years, said, “I had to make it to the parade today; this is great for the city, great for Villanova, the kids love it and the team earned it. It’s a fun time.”
Villanova sophomore Michelle Kimura, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, said, “I was in the student section for the championship game in San Antonio, and this parade, to me, is really, really special.”
After the Villanova players spoke and the parade event was officially over, hundreds of fans lingered outside City Hall, sharing memories and buying Wildcat apparel from nearby vendors.