When Dani Sinclair was growing up as a hoops fanatic in Guelph, Ont., there weren’t many options to watch women’s basketball on TV.
The one game guaranteed to be on every year was the CIS national championship final and it invariably seemed to feature the University of Victoria. Sinclair vowed she would one day play for that team, which she did by captaining the 2003 Vikes’ CIS national championship side.
And on Thursday, the university removed the interim tag from her head coaching title, making her the Vikes new bench boss.
“Eleven years ago, a leap of faith brought me here and a big part of that was the tradition of excellence in UVic basketball,” said Sinclair, whose playing name was Dani Everitt, and who transferred for her final two seasons at UVic after three years at McMaster.
“Now, to accept this dream job is an amazing feeling . . . it’s humbling and truly an honour to be the next leader of this program,” said the former CIS first-team all-star and four-time conference all-star.
Sinclair has been assistant coach with the Vikes since 2006. She stepped into the interim head coaching job last season when incumbent Rich Chambers took a year’s leave due to personal issues. Chambers was unable to return. Sinclair then guided the Vikes to a 24-11 overall and 16-6 conference record and CIS national top-10 ranking for most of the season.
Sinclair was assistant coach for Canada at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has been head coach of several regional and B.C. teams.
Sinclair’s players spoke of her dedication to coaching.
Graduating Vikes captain Deb Yeboah noted, despite Sinclair being pregnant and giving birth mid-season in December, the coach missed only one practice in 2012-13.
“[Sinclair] is such a hard worker and always challenging us to be better. I’m confident she is the right fit for the team,” said forward Jessica Renfrew, who will be entering her fourth season with the Vikes.
Sinclair cited Chambers, well-known in B.C. coaching circles, as being “a great mentor to me.”
Although Sinclair played for the Vikes under Brian Cheng, after Kathy Shields had left the bench due to medical reasons, Sinclair singled out the UVic coaching legend and eight-time CIS-champion Shields as a huge influence.
“Kathy is the model of what a coach in the CIS should be,” Sinclair said.
Shields has stayed close to the program.
“Dani [Sinclair] has a special quality and is a natural leader and one of the hardest workers out there,” said Shields. “The players look up to her, follow her and respond to her. She’s a great role model and brings a lot of balance to her life.”