I MMA C U L ATA U N I V E R S I T Y
didn’t call her “coach.” We called her “Mrs. Rush,” even though she
wasn’t much older than we were. That was just the way we were raised.
Cathy was married to Ed Rush, an NBA official, and she took this
job because she was looking for something to do when he was on the
road. She signed an initial contract with the college for $450 a year. I
don’t think she ever made more than $1,200 a year. Cathy had gone to
West Chester State and had been a teacher. Her only prior coaching
experience in basketball had been at the junior high school level, but
she was a quick study. She read every coaching book she could get her
Cathy developed into a very good coach. Practices were extremely
productive andorganized. Cathyhad a dailyworking schedule right down
to the amount of time for a water break. She had no idea what the school’s
record was before she arrived. She said she just wanted to win, do the best
she could. Denise Conway, a fine guard from Archbishop Prendergast,
and I arrived on the scene together with Cathy Rush. Maureen Mooney
was already at school. To me, the amazing thing was that none of us was
recruited. The government hadn’t passed Title IX yet, so smaller schools
like us benefited.
West Chester State, our neighbor, was a dominant power in women’s
basketball in the ’60s because it was able to attract so many women
interested in studying physical education. When Cathy talked about
West Chester, there was a reverence in her voice. They actually had six
or seven teams!
But there were also so many good players coming out of the Catholic
League at that time. West Chester couldn’t take them all, and women like
me, who were interested in a more traditional education, fanned out to
other schools in the area.
Before the start of our freshman year, Denise and I were hanging out
in Valley View, the commuter lounge, and I casually mentioned that I
thought we were going to play four years together, and that we wouldn’t
lose a game. When we looked at the schedule, it didn’t seem that far-
fetched. We were playing Rosemont, Cabrini, and Gwynedd-Mercy,
small women’s Catholic colleges that always dotted our schedule.
There were still some obstacles for me to overcome. First, I had to get
to school. I still don’t know how I got back and forth to campus every day
duringmy first couple of years. It was 22miles frommy house to campus.
That was 44 miles a day. Households really only had one car at the time.
I had to be resourceful. I thumbed to school at least three times a
week. When I attended O’Hara, there was a bus that would pick up
students at Our Lady of Fatima, my home parish. I knew that bus stopped
at Holy Cross grade school in Springfield, and I could hop another one
that went out to Immaculata. So I convinced the driver to let me off there.
It was a challenge. But I did it.
So when I played in a game, I’d be thinking to myself, “I thumbed
to school three times this week. You’ve got to be crazy if you think
I’m losing this game.” Besides, getting home was much easier. At one
point, Maureen, who lived at home in the Northeast, would take me
in her car to Glenolden, then get on I-95 and drive through the city. I
told you she was an angel! Our friendship was one that would last
Some of our players also commuted from Havertown and Upper
Darby, and somebody usually had a car. After practice, somebody usually
raided the dining room, which at that time was, theoretically at least, off
limits to commuters. We just wanted something to eat. Most of us never
had any money. Whoever drove dropped me off at the old Strawbridge
and Clothier’s store at the Springfield Shopping Center on Baltimore Pike
and I’d walk the rest of the way – about 25 minutes.
That’s why I was so thin. I used to walk everywhere. When Karl
and I went on a date, he would get furious with me because I would
walk so fast. Now the poor guy has to turn around to make sure I
“Are you coming?”
Then there was the matter of getting dressed for the game. Our
uniforms were blue woolen tunics with box pleats. We wore a blouse
underneath and then bloomers. They were very modest and as itchy
as hell. They were cinched at the waist with a belt. We wore long white
tube socks and sneaks and had corduroy jackets for warm-ups. And
each of us had just one uniform.
We’d play our games that way. There were no lockers, no showers,
so we went home drenched in perspiration. We couldn’t wash the
tunics. We washed the blouses in the sink and hung them out to dry.
And off we went. We wore those uniforms through the 1973 season.
In my senior year, we switched to skirts.
Then, there was the lack of equipment. We played road games at
places like the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. They
put their names on their basketballs to identify them. Our basketballs
were a mess. Each game we took one ball out of the opponents’ bag
and replaced it with one of our lousy ones. We wound up with a whole
rack of everyone else’s basketballs.
We also had no trainer. We weren’t allowed to get hurt. When we
played at Villanovamy senior year, Jake Nevin, theWildcat’s legendary
trainer, loved us and taped our ankles with pre-wrap. We watched
him carefully. The next time Cathy had the first-aid kit handy, she
beckoned to us, “Come here. I’ll tape your ankles.” When the first
player approached the coach, instead of using pre-wrap, Cathy sprayed
stickum on the player’s ankle and taped over it. The rest of us knew
what to expect and politely declined, “That’s okay, Mrs. Rush. I think
we can manage this.” We didn’t have a tape-cutter, and knew we’d
have to pull off the tape. Ouch! We played at Montclair State one time,
and I asked their trainer, “How do you tape an ankle?” She replied,
with motions, “You put three strips here and three strips there.” We
taped our own ankles from then on.
We believed in ourselves from the beginning. Then I made a costly
mistake. I forgot my sneakers on the day of a game. Maureen drove
me home to get them. As we were returning to campus, we had a car
accident. We finally arrived at the game to find Cathy upset because
we were late. “Denise,” I called, “Be sure to keep winning this game
because I don’t think I can play.” I was right. I had broken my collar
bone. That was the end of my first season at Immaculata. The team