Editorial: Hamilton Honey Badgers break barriers with new hire

Vallee-CAAWS

It’s a new basketball league looking to do what no other basketball league has successfully done in Canada — succeed. (Sure, there’s the National Basketball League of Canada, but after seven years of existence it hasn’t quite taken off).

The Canadian Elite Basketball League will officially launch in May, with a total of six teams ranging from British Columbia to Ontario — with the potential of future expansion. The CEBL isn’t just looking to sustain a basketball league in Canada; it’s also looking to give an option to Canadian ballers to stay in the country to continue their playing careers following their education in the NCAA, U Sports or CCAA.

As of early last week, the CEBL is also looking to break barriers. The Hamilton Honey Badgers, the one of three Ontario organizations, announced their new Head Coach and General Manager for their inaugural season would be Chantal Vallée. A native of Montreal, Quebec, Vallée has been the head coach for the University of Windsor Lancers women’s basketball program for 13 seasons — currently on a study leave of absence as she focuses on a book.

Vallée will be the first female to hold both the GM and Head Coach positions for a professional men’s sports organization.

As the Lancers coach since 2005, Vallée has transformed the program into a powerhouse with 10 straight trips to the OUA Final Four, nine consecutive OUA medals (six OUA Championships between 2009-2015) and winning five straight CIS (now U Sports) titles from 2011 to 2015. She has an overall coaching record of 323-84 with Windsor.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a female coach receive such an impressive coaching gig, let alone have such an impressive resume through her career. Within Canadian University basketball, there’s a handful of top female coaches that have made history and have had great careers alongside Vallée: Theresa Burns (McMaster), Carly Clarke (Ryerson), Michéle Belanger (Toronto) and Lisa Thomaidis (Saskatchewan and head coach of the Canadian Women’s National team) to name a few.

Recently, there were reports that the Cleveland Browns of the NFL were looking into potentially hiring Condoleezza Rice as their next Head Coach — which would’ve made her the first ever NFL female coach. The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA hired Becky Hammon’s back in 2014 as the first full-time female assistant coach in the leagues history — she even led the Spurs Summer League team as the head coach this past summer.

The barriers being broken by female athletes is another conversation that can be had.

For the CEBL, this is a step forward that has caught national attention. Vallée is well respected around the Canadian Basketball circle, expanding beyond gender. There’s been a show of support from highly respected Canadian basketball minds like Paul Jones (Toronto Raptors radio commentator), Leo Rautins (former Canada Men’s Basketball head coach and current broadcaster for Raptors games), and among others.

This isn’t just a barrier broken by the Honey Badgers and the CEBL, it’s a step forward for the game of basketball and sports in general.

This hire basically emphasizes that professional sports teams and organizations beyond sports should hire the best and most qualified candidate possible for any position — no matter what level of the company and no matter a person’s gender.

The CEBL and Honey Badgers have done exactly that, taking the correct step forward in rewarding the right people.

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