Cole and Chad Catalano have always been about as close as two brothers can be. Apparently, their bond was strong enough for one of them to relinquish his spot in leading a prominent local baseball program.
Last month, when Cole left Hammond High after one season as head coach to return to St. Thomas Aquinas – this time to lead the Falcons on the diamond – he reached out to Chad to join him. And while “it was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he said Monday the elder Catalano brother decided to leave his post at Newman.
After two seasons with the Greenies, including leading them to the Division III quarterfinals last season, Chad Catalano will become the top assistant at STA.
“Not too many brothers have the opportunity to work with each other,” Chad said. “He was an assistant for me at Northlake Christian (in 2014 and 2015), and to have the opportunity to go back and coach with him and let him be my boss this time is a great thing.
“There’s already a championship-caliber foundation laid there, and it’s time for the Catalano brothers to build upon that and keep it going.”
Chad was 75-64 as a head coach in two seasons each at Newman and Northlake. Last season, with a near-complete overhaul of the team just before the schedule opened in February, with a team full of underclassmen he led the Greenies to a 14-19 regular season before a surprising 2-0 opening-round series victory against seventh-seeded Episcopal in Division III.
In 2015, with Cole by his side, he led the Wolverines to a 23-11 record and – before the split – to the Class 2A quarterfinals.
Cole, 32, got his first shot as a head coach last season at Hammond, but when STA came calling for him to replace Barrett Morgan, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “go back home.” He had two previous stints there as an assistant – for two seasons in 2011 and 2012 and from 2016 to 2018, including the state championship season of 2016.
In 2017, Cole was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, which eventually led to a short time away from coaching following the 2018 season. He endures chemotherapy treatment five times per month and was able to return to the diamond with Hammond, saying although the tumors are still there, he has not recently suffered with symptoms.
The love he received from his Falcons family always remained with him, and he says it was what guided him home.
“I had to leave because of my medical condition, and before I left, the school was unbelievable with raising funds in order to help me with my medical expenses, and that’s just something you never forget,” he said. “St. Thomas was like home, but I can’t say a bad thing about Hammond High … that program was unbelievable, the kids were awesome and the parents were great.
“Everyone in life has tough decisions to make, and this was one of them. I just had to follow my heart, and to be back in the Catholic environment was huge for me, too, as I am battling this thing.”
And as soon as he learned he got the gig at STA, he started working on his brother to join him.
“Growing up, my big brother was my best friend,” Cole said. “We practiced in the yard together, we did everything together, and my eyes were always on him. He always showed me the right things to do, and in regard to baseball, to not only be able to do what we do but to do it together is just a dream come true.”
Newman athletic director Patrick Summerour said Monday current assistant Pat Adams will take over for Catalano on an interim basis in the 2020 season.
“When the season ends, we’ll see where we want to go,” said Summerour, who added that Adams “absolutely” will be a candidate to take over the job on a permanent basis.