Growing up as a young girl playing basketball in Connecticut, Carly Fabbri didn’t pay that much attention to the powerhouse basketball program in her home state. Instead, she was pre-occupied with a different school nearby, one that was closer to home — literally: The Quinnipiac Bobcats, coached by her mother Tricia.
“I wasn’t much of a UConn fan, I spent most of my days up at Quinnipiac,” Carly said. “Obviously UConn is a dynasty but I’m more of a Bobcat fan than a Huskies fan.”
However, when Carly started getting recruited, she wasn’t a slam-dunk for the Bobcats. Instead, she was recruited like any other prospects and kept her options open.
“I did consider going to other schools. I looked around to see if I could play anywhere else,” she said. “It came down between Quinnipiac and Penn.”
What ultimately made the difference was that if she went somewhere else besides Quinnipiac, there would always be something missing from her college career.
“Not going to Quinnipiac, I would never give my mom a chance to get to any of my college games, knowing that she missed out on a lot growing up because she was always traveling with her team,” Fabbri said. “Also, a lot of my family is from Connecticut so it gave them an opportunity to get to a lot of my college games.”
Once Carly arrived at school, it took some time for her to figure out how the mother-daughter dynamic was going to work.
“I think initially there was a really big line (between being a mother and being a coach),” Coach Fabbri said “[Carly] didn’t even know where to call me mom, call me coach, so she just said nothing when we were on the court.”
Part of the issue came from the fact that Carly was hyper-focused on making sure her teammates weren’t affected by her mother being the coach.
“I was really nervous for [my teammates],” Carly said. “I wanted them to have a normal experience too in terms of going to school and playing for their coach.”
Once they got the awkwardness, success has followed the Bobcats and the Fabbri’s. They’ve made the tournament three times in four years, including last year’s Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 as a 12-seed.
“It’s been so great at every stage looking back at my career to watch how we’ve been able to take the necessary steps to get better,” Coach Fabbri said. “But to have her with the ball in her hands with a great team around her, it’s so special to do this with her with the way the program is and how much it means to her.”
For Carly, as a kid who grew up around the program and saw it move up from an old 2000-seat gym to the state-of-the-art TD Bank Sports Center, being part of the program’s ascent means that much more.
“I’ve watched Quinnipiac my entire life. Getting to the NCAA Tournament three out of the last four years and me being on those teams and contributing to the success, it’s been amazing,” Carly said. “I think it just goes to show we love basketball, we love Quinnipiac and how hard we’ve all worked. It’s been fun to be part of all the success.”
While Coach Fabbri will certainly miss her daughter’s production on the court when her career ends in the coming weeks, her attitude off the court is what has set her apart these last four seasons.
“She’s been just as invested as a head coach, that’s pretty special to say,” Coach Fabbri said. “Her investment and believe has been incredible to share over these four years with her.”
But just because Carly will no longer be with the Bobcats after this season doesn’t mean it will be the end of the mother-daughter relationships in Fabbri’s program.
“If you ask anybody else she’s like a mom to everybody else,” Carly said. “So it’s not too different.”