Tag Archives Reynold

Chantal Vallee stunned by international response to pro coaching appointment

TORONTO — Chantal Vallee was just 20 when she appointed head coach of a boys basketball team, more by accident than by design.That indelible season is forever etched in her brain. She calls it “one of the best memories of my life.” Vallee was coaching a high school girls squad in Montreal, when the men’s head coach had to leave the program suddenly.“The athletic director called me at home and said ‘Chantal, you have to coach the boys,’” Vallee said. “The guys were 17, 18. He said ‘We have a great team, we can win a championship, you need to coach that team.’”After some initial trepidation, Vallee took the boys team to the Quebec high school championships where they finished fourth.“It was a fantastic experience, a huge success,” she said. “But I remember we had our first team meeting . . . because of the age, I was a little bit nervous, of course. I didn’t know how they were going to react, and they looked at me so intently, and when I finished (my speech), my captain said ‘Let’s go Eagles!’ There was a team cheer, then boom, we went to practice, and that was it. They were great guys, I developed a great relationship with them, and they were actually protective of me.”One of the most successful coaches in Canadian university basketball will partly draw on that memorable year when she takes on her new challenge.Last week, the 43-year-old made international headlines when she was hired as both head coach and general manager of the Hamilton Honey Badgers of the fledgling Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), which is slated to tip off in May. She’s the first woman in history to hold both positions on a men’s pro team.While she cherishes the chance to blaze a trail for young women following in her footsteps, that wasn’t her top priority in accepting the position. And gender never came up when team president John Lashway was wooing Vallee for the job.  “It didn’t cross my mind in the sense of weighing in the decision making,” she said. “But knowing what has happened now for me, I wanted to continue to coach and it’s a great opportunity of course, and that’s what the essence of it was.“But I see now, I remember when I was a young girl and I saw coaches on TV and they were all guys, I’ve never had a female coach myself. Never. Never been coached by a woman. But when I started to see Pat Summitt (Tennessee’s late Hall of Fame coach) . . . Then I saw Becky Hammon getting an assistant coaching job with the (San Antonio) Spurs, I thought ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ It’s not something that I necessarily wanted to do or I pursued, I just remember thinking ‘It’s good to see women out there.’ But if this appointment can have an effect on younger females, they can say ‘Oh, whether I’m a male or female, I can aspire to coach at the professional ranks,’ then that’s fantastic.”Vallee is the second woman to be named head coach of a men’s pro team. Nancy Lieberman coached Texas in the NBA Development League (now G League) in 2010-11.Vallee will maintain her position with the University Windsor, where she’s led Lancers women’s team to a record five consecutive U Sport titles between 2001 and ’15.She’s currently on sabbatical, which has provided more time to dedicate to her GM duties with the Honey Badgers. Sunday, she was at the Toronto Raptors’ game versus Miami, doing a virtual car-wash of media interviews. She’s been stunned by the response. She and Lashway figure she’s at 25 interviews and counting.“I knew it was going to be a bit of a reaction, because it’s not something you see every day, but the level and extent of what it has turned into, we didn’t expect that at all,” Vallee said. “And seeing all the other countries (that requested interviews), from Argentina to London, England, I think ‘Wow, that’s incredible.’”Among notable people who tweeted their congratulations: Lieberman, and Canadian women’s soccer star Christine Sinclair.The CEBL begins play in 2019 with six teams: Hamilton, Edmonton, Niagara (St. Catharines, Ont.), Saskatchewan (Saskatoon), Guelph, and Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, B.C.). Hamilton’s first-ever game is scheduled for May 12 against visiting Edmonton.Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press read more