U of T legend, Laurentian alum Michele Belanger to retire from coaching

Michele Belanger U of T athletics photo

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One of the longest-serving coaches in Canadian post-secondary sports is stepping down.

Michele Belanger, the University of Toronto women’s basketball head coach and a member of Laurentian’s powerhouse teams of the 1970s, will retire on July 1, the U of T announced this week.

“It’s hard to think of OUA women’s basketball and not think of Michele as the Varsity Blues head coach,” Ira Jacobs, dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the school, said in a statement.

“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.”

Born in Montreal and raised in Timmins, Belanger’s arrival at Laurentian in 1974-75 coincided with the start of four consecutive Canadian titles for the Lady Vees under head coach Norm Vickery.

After the fourth championship run, she moved to the University of Victoria and reached the national final yet again. Victoria faced Laurentian in the championship game, which LU won in double overtime for a fifth straight national crown.

Sharon Bradley’s resignation at U of T opened up a coaching position there, and Belanger applied. Hired in 1979, at the age of 22, she posted a record of 854-504 over 41 seasons. She guided the team to its lone national title in 1986 and helped coach Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2015 world university games in Korea.

Belanger was the Ontario University Athletics coach of the year eight times and led the Blues to nine provincial titles.

She coached 38 players to OUA all-star honours and nine players to U Sports all-Canadian status, while making 17 appearances at the national championship tournament.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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