There was a part of Yevette Angel that never wanted to leave the West Coast but Mama needed her and there's nothing that comes before her, not even good California living.
It was Mama who taught her the value of hard work, values she carried over to Sacred Heart Academy where the seeds of her basketball career were first planted. So it is fitting that in her return to Western New York to take care of Mama that Sacred Heart would welcome her with a warm embrace by naming her the academy's athletic director in July.
"I didn't think I would be back here, not only Buffalo but Sacred Heart as well," Angel said.
But thanks to Mama, she's home.
"She's not traveling so well and she used to come out to California so I really had to make a tough decision," Angel said. "I wanted to spend her older years with her and I had to make some sacrifices in a sense to be with her."
Angel returned home with few job prospects but she was able to land some speaking engagements until the opportunity at Sacred Heart came about.
"Sacred Heart has changed so much as far as in terms of having a new principal but then again it hasn't," Angel said. "The values are the same, the uniqueness of it and the size of it. To be back here and being part of empowering women is just enriching and it's the direction where I've lived my path. It puts an exclamation point on the things I represent since I've left Sacred Heart."
After graduating from Sacred Heart in 1981, Angel went on to a stellar basketball career at Ohio State and eventually was enshrined in the school's hall of fame. After that came playing and coaching in the WNBA and a career as a senior sales representative, Angel has carved out quite a path.
"I'm ready to put a mark on the future of Sacred Heart athletics and help it continue to grow," Angel said.
A three-time All-Western New York selection, Angel was one of Tara VanDerveer's first major recruits at Ohio State. The future Hall of Fame coach plugged Angel in the lineup at point guard and the Buckeyes fortunes turned immediately.
"She was a fabulous player, an All-American caliber player," said VanDerveer, the longtime coach at Stanford who once attended Buffalo Seminary. "She was strong, physical and could shoot. She was an absolute winner. She was one of my very, very favorite players I've ever coached.''
After making first team All-Big Ten as a sophomore, Angel wasn't named to all-conference first team as a junior, which irked VanDerveer more than it did the player. A seething VanDerveer showed Angel her ballot, nominating her as the top player in the conference.
"Tara that's not what's important," said Angel, finishing off a bowl of oatmeal. "It's about our team being successful."
The next season, Ohio State advanced to the Elite Eight and Angel made first team again.
After Ohio State, Angel played overseas in Spain, then thought about earning her masters degree while coaching in college and was hired as a graduate assistant at Michigan State.
After earning her masters in two seasons she coached at Notre Dame and San Diego State and recruited players like Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson before taking a position with Simon & Schuster where she sold college textbooks. Five years later there were rumblings about a new women's professional basketball league. At 33, Angel prepared her comeback.
"I had to play the [Simon & Schuster] president one-on-one during my interview and he was a big sports fan and he was a tall guy so during the interview he actually took me on the basketball court," said Angel, who was also coaching a high school team at the time. "They knew what my path was and the passion that I had so they gave me a leave of absence to try out. Basketball seems to always follow me."
Angel was drafted by the American Basketball League's Seattle Reign but elected to play for the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA. Angel made the Monarchs as walk-on and was inserted into the starting lineup when Ruthie Bolton was injured.
""My first start was on ESPN against Cynthia Cooper," she said.
When Bolton returned, Angel was released but as she was staring out her apartment window crying he received a phone call.
"The Monarchs asked me to be an assistant coach the rest of the season," he said. "Then I completed the next season as an assistant."
But after the entire staff was fired, Angel had enough of coaching and returned to publishing as a senior sales rep for a division of Pearson Publishing. It was a post she held for 13 years.
"Knowing that I had a job and there was some security and kind of decided I had enough and that I was fulfilled," she said. "I did a of basketball and what that entailed - the hard work, the missed holidays, the days on the road, the travel - all of those were beginning to become exhausting in a sense. As a coach and a player it's two different worlds."
Now Angel's world as led her back home where Mama's garage is now filled with textbooks and the 12 sports at her alma mater are in safe hands.
"Yevette is a special person who can so anything she puts her mind to," VanDerveer said. "She's going to be successful."