One of Darlene Currie’s earliest memories of organized basketball came in Grade 8 at Calgary’s McDougall School in the late 1940s.
Each lunch hour, a group of kids gathered in the gym and a teacher threw one basketball out to the mob. One basketball for everyone. If you couldn’t get hold of that ball, you could easily go the whole hour and never touch it. “I think that’s where I learned to rebound and push my way in,” Darlene recalled. It also set a pattern for her six-decade-long basketball career both as a player and coach: if an opportunity arose to elevate the Canadian game, Darlene would be in the thick of things, battling to gain control of the ball. She stands as one of the most revered coaches in Canadian basketball today as a result.
When Darlene moved to Vancouver in 1962 at age 25, she was already considered the best basketball player in the country. She represented Canada internationally at three Pan American Games in 1959, 1963, and 1967, captaining Canada to a bronze medal in the latter. That same year, she led Team BC to a gold medal at the first Canada Winter Games and matched this result in 1975 and 1979 while coaching.
Through the 1960s, she helped form a senior women’s club team known as the Vancouver Stars, Richmond Merchants, and Vancouver Molson’s that dominated BC and Canadian basketball winning at least three national championships.
In 1970 Darlene was named head coach of the Canadian women’s national basketball team, one of the earliest women to coach a national team in any sport in Canadian history. For the next five years, she worked tirelessly to elevate the women’s national program.
In 1971, she took the Canadian women to Brazil for their first appearance in the modern era at the FIBA World Basketball Championships and finished a respectable 10th overall. Later that year, she guided the national team to fifth-place at the Pan American Games in Colombia. In 1972 and 1973, Darlene took the Canadian women’s team on tours through Europe and became the first non-communist team to tour China.
Closer to home, Darlene helped build Vancouver’s senior women’s basketball league for over thirty years. Her Vancouver Retreads team captured five medals—including three gold—at various age levels at the World Masters Games. In three decades teaching at Vancouver secondary schools, she often coached two basketball teams at once.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.