PITTSBURGH — Those driveway one-on-one battles in Berwyn with his younger brother might someday inspire a terrific script for a film or TV series, but they were never going to prepare Martin Ingelsby for the verbal scaldings he would receive from his first boss in college basketball.

Long before he became Delaware’s head coach and guided the 15th-seeded Blue Hens to their matchup here Friday against Villanova, against a program with so many fond connections for him, Ingelsby was attending his brother Brad’s commencement ceremony in the spring of 2002. It was there — Brad graduating with a business degree from Villanova, a mortarboard on his head, the character of Mare Sheehan not yet a seed in his brain — that Martin got the phone call that changed his life. It was from his college coach, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, who told him to drop whatever he was doing, jump in his car, and drive to Staten Island. Dereck Whittenburg, the Wagner College head coach, Brey’s old buddy from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., had a grad assistant job waiting for Ingelsby if he wanted it.

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Ingelsby did. He helped shepherd the Seahawks to a 21-10 record and the school’s first and still-only NCAA Tournament berth, and for his 10 months there, he felt the full force of Whittenburg. The beating heart of North Carolina State’s 1983 national-championship team, a tough-as-birchwood guard who had played through a badly sprained ankle throughout that miracle run, Whittenburg was a man rarely inclined to censor himself, especially to a new coach who looked like a choirboy.

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“One time,” Whittenburg said in a phone interview, “I called him a p---y, and he said, ‘I ain’t no p---y.’ Well, that’s exactly what I wanted out of him. I wanted him to step up his coaching with the guards. He didn’t know the method to my madness at the time, but I got out of him what I wanted to get out of him. Ask him. ‘Did Whittenburg ever call you a p---y?’ ”

So, Martin, did he?

“He really called me a lot of words,” Ingelsby said Thursday at PPG Paints Center. “Dereck challenged me to be a better coach, to be a better leader, to be more confident in who I was. He was hard on me at times, but I think I needed that. It brought the best out of me as a young coach, as an aspiring coach. I feel like I learned so much from him because of his passion, his intensity, and I try to balance that with my demeanor and personality with my group.

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“But there were many times I felt I had to put stuff in my ears and not pay attention to what he was saying.”

Those recollections of Whittenburg’s temper have likely been the harshest of Ingelsby’s memories ever since he learned on Selection Sunday who his team’s opponent would be. He grew up the oldest son of a Villanova legend, Tom Ingelsby Sr., who scored more than 1,600 points and was a starter on the Wildcats team that lost to UCLA in the 1971 national championship game. As a kid in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Martin boarded yellow buses at the Radnor Hotel that shuttled him and other Villanova fans to the Pavilion for games, giving him an up-close look at his favorite player, shooting guard Greg Woodard, and the hope, he said, “to live up to my dad’s success … because he was such a great basketball player.”

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He has come damn close: leading Archbishop Carroll to the 1995 Philadelphia Catholic League championship — Tom the coach, Martin the point guard — and winning the 1997 Markward Club Award as the city’s player of the year, a pair of honors that place him among the best of the best in the history of Philly prep basketball. After Ingelsby started 127 games for the Fighting Irish and spent another 13 years as Notre Dame’s director of basketball operations and Brey’s top assistant, Delaware hired him in 2016, and for his father’s part, there was pride in knowing that Martin had never coasted on the family name, never expected anything to be handed to him just because of who he was. “He paid his dues,” Tom Sr. said.

Brey is 62, in his 21st season at Notre Dame. The Blue Hens went 22-11 in 2019-20 and, after a COVID-shortened season, are 22-11 again, tightening up their defense during the Colonial Athletic Association’s conference tournament last week, holding each of their three opponents to no more than 56 points, outlasting UNC Wilmington, 59-55, in the championship game.

And now that Ingelsby has reached the field of 68 for the first time in his six years in Newark, it doesn’t take much to envision him as Brey’s successor in South Bend. “He’s got it on both sides of the ball,” Jay Wright said. “He’s got great demeanor and respect from his players. I think he’s an outstanding coach.”

That’s the future, though. Here, now, the past is thicker. Tom Sr. and his wife, Rose, had arrived here by early Thursday afternoon, for the rare occasion when their loyalty to Villanova might be compromised.

“Let’s put it this way,” Tom Sr. said cryptically. “I’m for the good guys.”

Wright takes care to acknowledge and keep close to the program any and all Wildcats alumni, no matter their age or era, so that his current players recognize that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. It’s an effort that Martin appreciates and that makes Friday’s game, in some ways, feel more like a reunion than a lopsided matchup between the Big East Tournament champion and a team that finished the regular season in fifth place in a lesser league. “We always show them … the banners, the retired jerseys,” Wright said, “and tell them, ‘Tom Ingelsby, that’s him. That’s the guy.’”

Having flown east from Los Angeles, Brad stood courtside as the Blue Hens went through their late-morning practice, the words MARE OF EASTTOWN emblazoned on the upper arms of his black Patagonia coat, some subtle marketing for the show that has made him one of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters.

“Mart fits the profile of the kind of player who becomes a coach,” said Brad, who is 42, 16 months younger than Martin. “It all sort of made sense. It’s what he loves. He loves the game, and he loved the game at a really young age. You go out and watch a game, and you just see guys who can see a couple of plays ahead. Mart was that. There was never really any talk of anything else. We kind of said, ‘Oh, this is going to be Mart’s path.’”

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The journey might have ended quickly, had Ingelsby failed to prove himself to a coach determined to test his toughness and willing to do anything short of spitting in his face to do it.

“I wanted to get some fire out of him,” Whittenburg said, “and I’ve loved him even more ever since then.”

He gets his shot to show everyone and shock the world, and no matter what happens after the ball is tipped around 2:45 p.m. Friday, no matter the final score against the program that is so much a part of him, just understand: No way, no how, not ever again. No one should see Martin Ingelsby as a wimp or worse.

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