BY JEFF FALK
They say that those who can’t play, write, officiate or coach.
Hailey Carangelo could always play basketball. Still can. But when her playing days were cut short, she connected with a part of herself that had previously been suppressed.
Or perhaps she was forced to grow up a little sooner than she expected.
At the ripe old age of 21, Carangelo is the newest varsity assistant and JV head coach for the Bishop Carroll girls’ basketball team. It wasn’t the path the former Lebanon Catholic star would have necessarily chosen, but sometimes we don’t get to pick our own way.
“I knew in high school that I wanted to coach,” said Carangelo. “I just didn’t know if it would be a side job or a profession. And I’m still figuring that out. I’d like to have kids and a family some day. But I want to help shape girls and the people they become.
“The main word I would use to describe my coaching style would be ‘passionate’,” Carangelo continued. “At Lebanon Catholic, I was very passionate. Now I’m just taking that and teaching the girls basketball.”
After graduating from Lebanon Catholic in 2010, Carangelo matriculated to Division One Saint Francis in Loretto, PA, on an athletic grant-in-aid. But things didn’t work out for Carangelo with the Red Flash.
Following a red-shirt year in 2010-11, Carangelo appeared in 53 games for Saint Francis over the next two seasons, but played sparingly. When the Red Flash brought in a new coach at the end of last season, he and Carangelo didn’t see eye-to-eye on some things, on or off the court.
“I’m graduating in May,” said Carangelo, a marketing major. “I don’t know. I guess you could say there was a conflict. It’s a difficult subject to discuss because I don’t want to trash people. It was a tough situation. But things are fine now.
“I’m still on scholarship,” added Carangelo. “What happened was during my freshman year, I got hurt, so I was red-shirted. Last year, the assistant coach became the head coach. I planned on graduating in five years. But he wanted me to graduate in four years, so I had to bulk up on credits.”
Bishop Carroll, a Class A high school located in nearby Ebensburg, is currently 8-5 on the year. Carangelo has led the fighting Huskies’ junior varsity squad to a 9-4 mark.
“Crystal Horton recruited me at Saint Francis and last year was her first year at Bishop Carroll,” said Carangelo. “We kept in contact and she knew I wasn’t playing. She asked me if I wanted to be the JV coach and I said ‘Yeah, sure.’ I definitely wasn’t looking to do anything this year, but I love basketball. I knew it was something I did want to do, but I didn’t know when it would happen.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot during my first year,” Carangelo continued. “The first day of practice I didn’t say anything, I just stood there and listened. I definitely like forging a relationship with the girls. Someone can think of me as a good basketball player, but I’d like to become a good coach. I’m young and I’m learning as I go along.”
Despite her limited experience, Carangelo’s age has afforded her a unique opportunity to connect with her players. Carangelo is only five or six years older than many of the girls she is mentoring.
“I definitely think so,” said Carangelo. “At times, they (her troops) forget I’m the coach, and I forget I’m the coach. The age gap isn’t that much. I had one of the girls say to me, ‘You’re so similar to my older sister.’
“I guess you could say that they respect me because they know I played,” Carangelo added. “I know how a basketball player’s mind works. Players don’t like to play defense and players don’t like to box out. But I learned how to win, and I hope they want that lesson.”
Carangelo was an all-state performer during her time at Lebanon Catholic, tallying 1,563 career points. During her senior campaign, Carangelo averaged 19.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per outing.
Carangelo was part of two District Three Class A winning teams at Lebanon Catholic.
“I’d say I definitely learned to be patient with girls,” said Carangelo of her time on Assumption Hill. “My freshman year, I had an answer for everything Coach (Patti) Hower said. But she helped me become the player I am. She had to coach differently to me than other players, other personalities. But she did a great job of getting everybody on board.
“I definitely think it helped me become the person I am today,” Carangelo continued. “I just think I have a good sense of what I want in life and what I don’t. I had a good time at Lebanon Catholic, and I think that helps me relate, because Bishop Carroll is a small Catholic school like Lebanon Catholic.”
Not unlike the rest of us, Carangelo’s future is clouded with uncertainty. But if there’s one thing she’s sure of, she would like it to include basketball.
“Yeah, I definitely miss the girls at Saint Francis,” said Carangelo. “I went to one game and I actually teared up, and I’m not a crier. And I think it’s mutual. I think they miss me. It’s the camaraderie that I miss.
“My future is kind of up in the air,” added Carangelo. “I’ve applied for jobs out here. But there’s nothing. I definitely want to coach here (Bishop Carroll). I applied for the jobs I could and I told the girls of my situation.
“I definitely want to continue coaching in the future. I don’t know if it’ll be right of way. But I can never see myself not being involved in basketball, at least for as long as I can. I want to get situated and comfortable in a job first.”