(WINDSOR, ON) – Chantal Vallée, one of the most accomplished coaches in Canadian university basketball, has been named the first-ever head coach and general manager of the Hamilton Honey Badgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Vallée becomes the first woman in basketball history to be named as both head coach and general manager of a men’s professional team, and only the second woman ever to serve as Head Coach of a men’s professional basketball team.
The CEBL begins play in 2019 in six cities across Canada. Hamilton’s first-ever game is scheduled for Sunday, May 12 when Edmonton visits the Honey Badgers at FirstOntario Centre.
Now in her 14th year as head coach of the University of Windsor women’s basketball program, Vallée has a career winning percentage of .791 (351-93). She guided the Lancers to a record five consecutive National Championship titles from 2011-2015, and her teams made 11 straight trips to the OUA Final Four, earning medals nine consecutive times.
Her achievements have been honoured with 22 basketball and all-sports Coach of the Year awards from numerous sports bodies, including twice being named Canadian U SPORTS Coach of the Year. In 2016, Vallée was named CAAWS Most Influential Woman in Canada, in the coach category.
“I am honoured and excited to be taking on the challenge of serving as head coach and general manager of the Hamilton Honey Badgers in the first year of Canada’s new professional basketball league,” Vallée said. “We are at an unprecedented time of growth for basketball across Canada. The Canadian Elite Basketball League is the first national league with a vision, financial resources, and executive expertise in running major professional sports organizations to be able to truly play an instrumental role in furthering the development of basketball in this country.”
Hamilton joins Edmonton, Niagara, Saskatchewan, Guelph, and Fraser Valley as the original six teams in the CEBL. Each team will include a minimum of 70 percent Canadian players, many playing professionally during the traditional basketball season. Teams will play a 20-game regular season schedule from May through August 2019.
Vallée has been an assistant coach with the Canadian Development and Junior National women’s teams, as well as an assistant coach at the University of British Columbia and McGill University, where she earned a Master’s of Physical Education degree in Coaching and Sport Psychology.
Her post-secondary head coaching career began with a three-year stint at Montreal’s Vanier College where she transformed that program into a top-five national power. She had previously served as head coach of a men’s AAA level high school program in Quebec that finished fourth in the province.
In 2005, Vallée took the helm of a Windsor program that had only four winning seasons in 45 years. In her third season the Lancers posted a 22-9 record, and in 2008-09 the Lancers rolled to a 33-4 record and into the national championship tournament to begin a seven-year run of advancing to the tournament.
In 2010-11, Vallée led the Lancers to their first-ever national championship title following a 20-2 regular season. They again went on to win the national championship in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The 2012-13 team registered a perfect 21-0 record, the first time in OUA women’s basketball history that a team went undefeated since the league went to its expanded schedule.
“Canada is one of the world’s leading producers of elite basketball talent, and that speaks to the quality of coaches we have in this country,” said Honey Badgers president John Lashway, who spent 22 years in the NBA and 10 in the NHL in senior management positions with the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. “Vallée is widely regarded as one of the very best, with a remarkable record for winning that few have come close to matching. Her success is built on core principles and values that the Honey Badgers will rely on to build a basketball program and a front office that will engage with the Hamilton community in ways that will bring pride to our fans, to our corporate and community partners, and to the entire CEBL.”
While Vallée becomes the first woman anywhere in the world to be both general manager and head coach of a men’s professional basketball team, she also becomes only the second woman to be named head coach of a men’s professional basketball team. Nancy Lieberman, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, coached Texas in the NBA Development League in 2010-11.
“I would like to thank the University of Windsor for supporting me in taking on this opportunity with the Honey Badgers as we push to even greater heights with the Windsor Lancers women’s basketball program,” Vallée said. “I would also like to thank Honey Badgers president John Lashway for entrusting me to lead the organization’s basketball operations as head coach and general manager.”
Vallée’s work apart from basketball has resulted in her being presented with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medal in 2013. In 2012 she received the ATHENA International Leadership Award, which is presented to a woman, or man, who is honoured for attaining professional excellence, community service, and for actively assisting women in their achievement of professional excellence and leadership skills.