As the University of Regina Cougar women’s basketball team try to chase down a national title this weekend, a former coach is beaming with pride as she sees how the program has evolved since she took it over.
Christine Stapleton became the Cougars head coach in 1993 at a time when the team was struggling. Stapleton, who is now the director of athletics at Western Ontario, says she knew she could turn things around and started on a mission to do that after an embarassing loss to a University of Winnipeg team.
“We had just beaten by 100 by Winnipeg and a reporter from the Regina Leader-Post (David Moser) asked if we would ever be able to beat that team. I thought to myself yeah we will get it done because there was something about the basketball community and the people. I knew of the talent that was up and coming, I had the support of the University and (former director of athletics) Dick White to stick to the plan of keeping the best and brightest at home and the rest of history.”
One of the best moves Stapleton made was hiring current coach Dave Taylor as an assistant. She says it was Taylor who actually sought her out.
“I went to a high-school coaches meeting in my first year to introduce myself and tell them I didn’t have an assistant coach. He phoned me and said I would like to work with you.” Stapleton said. ” He was a good coach at Sheldon-Williams and we reaped the benefit of that and from other schools because of the great coaches Regina had and the players coming out. You don’t do what you do though at the level he has done without a great family which is what Dave has.”
The Cougars have only won one national title. That was in 2001 when Stapleton was the head coach. While only one team has won a national title, they have made many appearances at the tournament. Because of that, Stapleton says this team may be one of the top programs in Canada if not the top one.
“They have had a lot of success year-in and year-out, but what tells me how successful they are is where the women who have played on this team are and what they are doing. In the nine years I was here, I only had 12 that won a national title, but I have many who went on to better lives and community leaders. They are all successful. “Stapleton exclaimed. “There are a handful of teams that are very good in Canada, but this might be the best one.”
The Cougars look to earn a spot in the national final Saturday night as they take on their provincial rival, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a 6 o’clock start at the CKHS.