Coaching icon Michèle Bélanger announces retirement after 41 years at Varsity Blues helm

Photo by Toronto Varsity Blues
Photo by Toronto Varsity Blues

Toronto (via Toronto Varsity Blues) - The University of Toronto Varsity Blues announced today that acclaimed women’s basketball head coach Michèle Bélanger is retiring, effective July 1, 2020.

“It’s hard to think of OUA women’s basketball and not think of Michèle as the Varsity Blues head coach”, said Dr. Ira Jacobs, Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at the University of Toronto. “She has been a leader, a teacher, a tactician and a role model for so many student-athletes and coaches, alike, not only at U of T but across the country.”

A Canadian university coaching pioneer, Bélanger began her career at the University of Toronto in 1979. To say she has had success at the university level would be an understatement. 

A veteran of national and international competition, as both a player and coach, Bélanger is an institutional icon. She exudes greatness across four decades, from winning U of T’s only women’s basketball national title in 1986, to helping coach Team Canada to a silver-medal finish at the 2015 FISU Games, in Gwangiu, Korea.

A member of the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame and the longest tenured women’s head coach in university history, she guided the Varsity Blues to nine OUA championship titles, and was honoured as the OUA coach of the year on eight separate occasions.

She has coached 38 athletes to OUA all-star honours and nine players to U SPORTS all-Canadian status, while making 17 appearances at the U SPORTS national championship tournament.   Recently, five of her former players were named to the U SPORTS Top 100 all-century team, two are Nan Copp winners as the best female basketball player in the country, one of whom, Justine Ellison-Sharp, was also named the most outstanding female university athlete in 1996.

“I would like to thank the University of Toronto for an outstanding 41 years as head coach of the women’s basketball team”, said Bélanger.  “It has been a true privilege to work with such an outstanding group of professionals from caretakers to facility staff, administrators and a remarkable group of coaches.  I also want to thank the incredible team staff I have worked with over the years. Their efforts helped me keep the program alive and well, and they continually pushed me to be at my best.  Most importantly, I want to thank all the athletes I had the privilege of coaching. It has been my honour to have been a part of their growth, on not only the court, but now in their communities across the country as players and as alumni. They are the true heroines”.

In her 41 seasons at U of T, Bélanger has coached in 1358 games, recording 854 wins in the process.

FISU Games appearances:

2019 Naples, Italy (13th)

2015 Gwangiu, Korea (2nd)

2013 Kazan Russia (8th)

1997 Sicily, Italy

OUA Coach of the Year - 2010-11, 2007-08, 1999-2000, 1996-97, 1993-94, 1986-87, 1981-82, 1980-81

OUA championships – 2002, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1984

CIAU (U SPORTS) championship - 1986

In The Huddle: Playoff time
October 17, 2019 In The Huddle: Playoff time
In The Huddle: A perfect fit
October 10, 2019 In The Huddle: A perfect fit
In The Huddle: Learning to fly
September 27, 2019 In The Huddle: Learning to fly