Former Boston College women’s basketball head coach Cathy Inglese fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury on July 17, according to The Boston Globe. A week later, on Wednesday night, Inglese passed away at the age of 60.
“Our hearts are filled with sadness,” current head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee told BCEagles.com. “Cathy was so well respected in our coaching community for not only her basketball IQ but the way she treated others. From everyone associated with our BC women’s basketball program, we send all of our thoughts and prayers to Cathy’s family and loved ones.”
Several former BC coaches and players, as well as other prominent members of the basketball community, took to Twitter to express their grief and love for Inglese, the program’s all-time winningest head coach.
In the years leading up to her time with the Eagles, Inglese served as the head coach of Glastonbury High School (1980-83), an assistant coach at New Hampshire (1983-86), and the head coach at Vermont (1986-93)—where she strung together 57 straight regular season victories from 1991 to 1993.
During her 15-year tenure on the Heights (1993-2008), she compiled a 273-179 overall record, posting eight 20-win seasons in the process. To put that in perspective, she is the program’s only coach to finish her BC career with a .600 winning percentage or better. There have only been two other 20-win seasons in program history and none since 2010-11.
When Inglese took over the team in 1993-94, the Eagles were coming off three consecutive losing seasons. BC’s Big East ascent was hardly overnight. In fact, Inglese was a mere 29-52 in her first three seasons in Chestnut Hill. The 1996-97 season, however, marked a turning point in her stay with the Eagles.
BC got off to a shaky start, dropping its opener to Connecticut by 38 points and losing three of its first five games of the year. From that point forward, though, the Eagles were a different team, one that logged a 16-7 record the rest of the way, in large part thanks to a pair of five-plus game winning streaks. Despite bowing out of the Big East Tournament in the second round, BC was just starting its postseason climb.
Over the course of the next 11 years, Inglese led the Eagles to nine winning seasons and the program’s only seven NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1998-99, she guided BC to its first-ever 20-win season and trip to the Dance, en route to winning Big East Coach of the Year honors. Five years later, Inglese piloted the Eagles’ lone conference championship run. BC, which ended the season with a program-best 27 victories and its second of three Sweet Sixteen appearances, upset top-seeded and fourth-ranked UConn in the semifinals and ultimately became the only team to claim a Big East title by winning four straight games in as many days.
In 2005-06, BC made the transition to the ACC, but Inglese’s Eagles remained dominant. BC won 21 games, qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and made it back to the Sweet Sixteen, defeating top-seeded Ohio State along the way.
All in all, seven of her players have been inducted into the BC Hall of Fame and eight were either selected in the WNBA Draft or picked up as an undrafted free agent, not to mention the 11 that played overseas.
Inglese resigned following the 2007-08 season, before coaching at Rhode Island for the next five years. But she struggled with the Rams—a program that has clinched just one NCAA Tournament berth—failing to reach double digit wins every season she was with the program. After a few years away from the game, she worked as an associate at Fairleigh Dickinson from 2017-19. This past season, she was an assistant coach at Hofstra.
Her time with BC was undeniably the highlight of her career. And since she left, the Eagles have yet to come anywhere close to achieving the same kind of long-term success she experienced with the program, recording a 149-194 mark in the past 11 years.
It’s safe to say that Inglese will forever set the standard for BC women’s basketball.
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