Already having been inducted into the St. Catharines Hall of Fame (1999), the Ontario Basketball Hall of Fame (1999), and the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (1998), Chris Critelli has already accomplished more than many of Canada’s great basketball stars.
Last Wednesday, she added more to her list of accomplishments as the OUA was set to honour Critelli’s excellence. With the Brock women and men taking on the Western Mustangs, Critelli was honoured with the OUA women’s trophy being named the Critelli Cup.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed. It is a great honour,” said Critelli. “Everyone’s been asking me what it feels like and it’s hard to describe. It’s one of the neatest things that has happened to me.”
Critelli has done it all in terms of basketball, she is the only player to ever win both an NCAA and CIAU title. Critelli won two CIAU championships with Laurentian University through the years of 1976-1978. Critelli also spent one year at the University of Winnipeg prior to her time with Laurentian. She would then go on to win two NCAA title with Old Dominion through the years of 1978-1980.
“One of the championships I won at Old Dominion, I actually didn’t play [but] coached,” said Critelli.
It was the start of a tremendous coaching career to an already Hall of Fame playing career. She spent 25 years as the Brock Women’s Basketball coach, were she posted a 393-333 record – the most wins all-time for Brock women’s coach.
During her coaching tenure at Brock, Critelli took on the role of Assistant Athletic Director as well. She decided in 2009 that it was time to take one of the two job titles off her name as at times things became tough to manage.
“Some years it was very good, I could manage it and have some success with what I was doing administratively and as a coach,” said Critelli. “Sometimes it hurt my recruiting as I was concentrating more on running championships and doing administrative work and my team would suffer.”
As the Badgers coach Critelli would lead the team to 22 of 25 playoff appearances. She helped the Badgers to championships in the Central Division (1977-78), and West Division (1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86, and 1987-88). She added an OWIAA championship in 1982-83 and the team would eventually win an OUA silver medal in 2001-02.
“Part of it is being in the right place at the right time, but part of it was just working hard towards a dream,” said Critelli about her success. “I never stopped dreaming and that was important to me. I kept looking over my shoulder thinking someone is going to come out better than me, so I better keep working hard.”
Her hard work led to her also being a member of Canada’s National team at the age of 17 – her years with team Canada included trips to the Olympics in 1976 and 1980. With the team she won three medals in 1979 at the Pan-Am Games, the World Championships and FISU Games. She would also go on to coach the Canadian National Team as an assistant. Critelli also played a season professionally with the Chicago Hustle.
When asked who her biggest supporter was, Critelli gave credit to both her parents and siblings.
“My mom, who was home more [because my dad worked] was the one who kicked me out of the house and said, go for your runs or go do your weights,” said Critelli, whose parents were in attendance for the Cup naming ceremony. “All my brothers and sisters, and father were supportive [as well]. They all went to the Olympics and were all behind me in my whole career. “
Critelli found out that the OUA trophy would be named the Critelli Cup in November, when the OUA called to shoot a video about her 33 years at Brock. With the honour, Critelli will never be forgotten in the OUA as her family name will live on for the many years to come. She is now recognized in St. Catharines, Ontario Basketball, Canada Basketball and the OUA. All that is left is for her to named to the Brock University Hall of Fame, which will surely come once she retires.