500-Win Milestone For Coaching Legend Paul Assaiante At Trinity College   
by Rob Dinerman

Dateline January 23, 2023 --- When Trinity College’s men’s squash team defeated Drexel 8-1 in Philadelphia last Wednesday, the outcome represented the 500th win --- against only 25 losses, a .953 winning percentage --- that the Bantams have recorded during the head coaching tenure of Paul Assaiante, who is now midway through his 29th year at the helm. His teams have won the Potter Cup emblematic of the national college team men’s championship 17 times (including a record-shattering 13 straight from 1999-2011, as well as in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018), a figure that is more than double the eight that Harvard, Trinity’s biggest rival and closest pursuer, has won in that time span, during which Assaiante’s troops have reached at least the final round 22 times during the 23-year period from 1997-2019 and compiled an almost unthinkable 252-match winning streak in dual-meet and Potter Cup competition between a Potter Cup final-round loss to Harvard in March 1998 and a midseason dual-meet setback at Yale nearly 14 years later in January 2012. Trinity College has also captured the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) all 17 times since squash was added to the list of its official sports, and three of Assaiante’s players --- namely Marcus Cowie in 1997 and 1998, Bernardo Samper in 2002 and Baset Chaudhry in 2008 and 2009 --- have won a total of five Intercollegiate Individuals titles as well.

Assaiante’s characteristically self-deprecating comment upon being informed of this milestone was, “I don’t remember many of the 500 wins but I have a very clear memory of all 25 losses!” When asked to share a few of the memories that stand out the most, he identified Trinity freshman Gustav Detter’s comeback win over three-time reigning Individuals champion Yasser El Halaby (who led 2-0 and had a match ball in the third game) in a 2006 last-match-on-court 5-4 dual-meet win over Princeton as his coaching career’s “most improbable” win; the 2009 Potter Cup titanic final-round last-match-on-court rally by Chaudhry, who trailed Princeton No. 1 Mauricio Sanchez 5-0 (nine-point scoring) in the fifth game before conjuring up a 9-0 match-ending charge as its “most exciting” win; and the 2013 Potter Cup championship run, culminating in a 6-3 final-round victory over a Harvard team that had taken an early lead, as his career’s “most meaningful win, because we were able to regain the championship after having surrendered it to Princeton in 2012. I had always dreamed that we would lose the title and then get it back, and that is what happened for us that day.”

As it happens, the journey that Coach Assaiante and his team took during that comeback 2012-13 season was chronicled for posterity by a Trinity College senior named Marc DiBenedetto, who had attended almost every practice and  traveled with the team on road trips as part of an independent study class credit that resulted in his producing a 55-minute documentary entitled “All In,” which he presented to Trinity’s men’s and women’s teams at the school’s Cinestudio that spring, and which  later attracted lots of viewers on Youtube.  Similar comeback championship-regaining team accomplishments also occurred, as referenced, in 2014-15 and 2016-17, with a successful title defense to follow in 2017-18, which latter result enabled Assaiante to equal the 17 national titles that Harvard men’s squash team had earned during the legendary Jack Barnaby’s 40-year coaching career from 1937-76.  Dual-meet wins this past weekend over Columbia and Cornell have already pushed Assaiante’s win total to 502, and his current team, as has been the case virtually throughout his nearly three decades in Hartford, is one of several that can realistically contend for the 2023 Potter Cup when that event is held on their “home” courts late next month.