Carrie Watts’ step up from long-term assistant to head coach turned out to be just a ferry ride away. The former UBC Thunderbirds and Canadian national team Pan Am Games and FIBA world championship player — and UBC assistant coach to head coach Deb Huband since 2007 – has been named head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team.
“There’s a saying the assistant coach makes suggestions and the head coach makes decisions,” said Watts, who turns 40 next month.
“This is a great opportunity at UVic and I’m very excited. Deb [Huband] and I were collaborative, so I feel prepared for this, with a solid understanding of the responsibilities that fall on a head coach.”
The Thunderbirds were 162-68 in the Canada West regular season with three conference championships and a national title during Watts’ time on the bench with former Olympian Huband. But when Huband retired this year after 27 years, Watts was passed over for the Thunderbirds head coaching job in favour of former York University Lions head coach Erin McAleenan.
“I spent 19 years at UBC as a player and coach, which is nearly half my life. Anytime a door closes on a chapter of your life that has lasted that long, there’s a sadness to it,” said Watts, who is enshrined in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame as a player.
Watts will instead face the Thunderbirds from the UVic bench as the eighth head coach in Vikes history to 1968.
“It’s great to come to a program with such a great history. I remember the great rivalry games as a UBC player against UVic stars like Lindsay Brooke and Linsday Anderson,” said Watts.
Watts replaces former UVic national-champion player and head coach Dani Sinclair, who left after eight seasons to become head coach of the Carleton Ravens. Vikes assistant coach Shalie Dheensaw was named interim head coach at 26 for the cancelled pandemic season. Dheensaw, former Claremont Secondary star and NCAA Pac-12 player with the Washington State Cougars, has accepted the position of Ryerson Rams assistant coach in Toronto.
As a player, Watts led UBC to the 2004 U Sports championship, the first national title for the team in 30 years at the time, and was named all-Canadian and U sports defensive player of the year.
“Defence is the great separator,” said Watts.
Watts represented Canada at the 2006 FIBA world championship and 2007 Rio Pan Am Games. She earned two bachelor degrees at UBC and a masters in kinesiology.
Watts was head coach of B.C. in the 2017 Canada Summer Games, U-17 2015 national championship and of the bronze-medallist B.C. U-15 teams at the 2010 and 2011 national championships.
The native of Agassiz will move to the Island with her husband Derran Watts, a 2001 draft pick of the New York Mets who played five seasons of minor-pro baseball in the Mets system up to Double-A, and their eight-year-old son Auston.