WALLINGFORD — A pair of former Sheehan hardwood standouts will be on the Southern Connecticut State University basketball sidelines this winter.
Mike Papale, a 2007 Sheehan grad, will assist the men’s basketball team under new head coach Scott Burrell and Stephanie Hiriak (2005 Sheehan grad) will join new women’s head coach Kate Lynch’s staff.
“We’ve known each other over the years through basketball,” Papale said. “It’s pretty cool that two Wallingford people are coaching at Southern.”
Papale has served the last three years as an assistant at Quinnipiac, his alma mater, under Coach Tom Moore. When the opportunity to join Burrell arose, he jumped at it. Burrell was named head coach last week at a press conference. Former coach Mike Donnelly departed the New Haven campus for Division I Florida Southern.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this program,” Papale said. “Coach Donnelly did a great job to get the program where it is. I have a ton of respect for what he has done here. But I’m excited about working with Coach Burrell. He’s going to be a great head coach and he has a lot of valuable experience. I look forward to learning from him every day. Right now I’m his only assistant coach and I’m ready to take that next step.”
Papale became close with Burrell in his time on the bench at Quinnipiac under Tom Moore. Spent the last three seasons as the Director of Basketball Operations after four years at the team’s student manager. Burrell was on staff for eight years.
“I had more of administrative role at Quinnipiac,” Papale said. “I wasn’t allowed to recruit or be on the court for practice. I mostly did film work and on campus recruiting like giving tours and helping with scouting reports and sending mail. It was more of an office job.”
Papale will be more hands on in New Haven.
“I’m going to have some of the roles at Quinnipiac but I will also be recruiting and working on scouting reports. I will have more involvement with the success of the team. I will also be coaching on the court. This is an opportunity to get more experience and advance my career.
Papale will go right to work recruiting in the coming days with Kentucky and New Jersey among the stops on the itinerary.
Papale said leaving Quinnipiac was bittersweet.
“Without Coach Moore, I wouldn’t have a place in the college coaching business,” Papale said.
“I was a student-manager under him. I worked and proved to him and I had to make sure I was the right guy for that position. It was hard for him to leave them. Quinnipiac did a ton for me and gave me a great experiences. It was special for me to coach there. It’s hard but I’m ready for the next step.”
As a player, Papale suited up for Sheehan for three years and McDonald’s All-America nominee after his junior campaign. Papale moved into a student assistant role as a senior after having his playing career cut short due to a heart condition.
Hiriak was a four-year guard at Sheehan.
She went on to play four years at Southern Connecticut before graduating in 2009. Hiriak played in 31 games with the 2007 national championship team. She was a teammate of Lynch.
Before arriving at SCSU, Hiriak was a four-year assistant at the University of Bridgeport (2010-14).
The Purple Knights won 50 games and made two appearances in the East Coast Conference Tournament during her tenure.
This past winter, she was the girls varsity basketball coach at Foran High-Milford, her first head coaching gig.
Hiriak said she is happy to be back in the college ranks at Southern.
“It’s always been a dream to come back and coach when I played and had so many great experiences,” Hiriak said. “For years, Kate and I said we would like to coach together some day. It’s a dream job to come back here bring back the success that we had when we played here. I loved my four years at Southern.”
Hiriak said coaching has been a desire since she was younger.
“I always wanted to coach basketball and I would tell everyone and they would just laugh at me,” Hiriak said. “I would always say, ‘I want to play as long as I could and then coach in college.’ This is a great opportunity. It’s going to be fun.”