WALLINGFORD — Cathy Inglese paid a visit to her hometown and alma mater back in March to talk to coach Mike Busillo and his Sheehan girls basketball team as they prepared for the Class M state championship game.
Busillo and the Lady Titans are now among family, friends and colleagues praying for the 60-year-old Inglese, who has undergone two surgeries since falling and suffering a traumatic brain injury on Wednesday.
“My sister Cathy Inglese has suffered a traumatic brain injury and is fighting for her life,” Inglese’s sister Nancy, who teaches at Sheehan, wrote on a Facebook post. “I am asking all family, friends and acquaintances to please pray for her. She needs ALL your prayers.”
Inglese, who starred as a player at Sheehan and Southern Connecticut State, has coached Division I women’s basketball at the University of Vermont, Boston College, Rhode Island and Fairleigh Dickinson. She has been the associate head coach at Hofstra since June.
While still at Fairleigh Dickinson, Inglese stopped by Sheehan on March 14, when the Lady Titans were several days away from playing Cromwell in the Class M state final at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“Coach Inglese was gracious enough to spend some time with us last winter,” the Titans tweeted on their team account Saturday. “Get well soon Coach!”
“Cathy had a big impact on us,” said Busillo. “Praying for her.”
In 1976, as an All-State senior, Inglese led the Sheehan girls basketball team to its lone state championship. She was the program’s first 1,000-point scorer. At SCSU, the 40 points Inglese scored on Feb. 20, 1980 against UMass still stand as that program’s single-game record.
Inglese’s coaching resume includes back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1992 and 1993 at Vermont and three America East Coach of the Year awards.
At Boston College, Inglese took the Eagles to seven straight NCAA Tournaments, three times reaching the Sweet 16. She was Big East Coach of the Year and her Eagles beat UConn in the conference semifinals en route to the 2004 Big East championship.
“I can't believe I've been able to make a career out of basketball,” Inglese remarked during her March 14 visit to Wallingford. “Sheehan and the coaches there gave me the opportunity to excel and play to my potential.”
Inglese moved on to Rhode Island, Fairleigh Dickinson and Hofstra after leaving BC in 2008.
No matter how far she roamed as a coach, Inglese never forgot where she came from. John Young of the Meriden Sports Reunion can attest to that.
“Cathy has been a longtime friend since my days in Wallingford and after,” Young remarked Saturday. “When I was a member and former president of Our Lady of Fatima Men’s Club in Yalesville I could always reach out to Cathy to speak at some of our functions. She was always very gracious to us by hosting an annual bus trip to a BC basketball game, giving us a tour and meeting with our group after the game, win or lose.
“[My wife] Millie and I always attend an annual Christmas party in Wallingford hosted by Anita [Russell] and husband Kurt, and Cathy always finds time to come home for the event,” Young added. “With the grace of God, Cathy will be there this year. Just a classy, wonderful, caring person is Cathy!”
Inglese is a member of multiple Halls of Fame, starting with Sheehan. She’s also been inducted to the University of Vermont Athletics Hall of Fame, the Connecticut Basketball Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame and the New Agenda Northeast Hall of Fame for “advancing the role of women in sports.”