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Gee-Gees women’s basketball celebrates 40th anniversary

Tuesday October 19, 2010

The Gee-Gees women’s basketball program will be celebrating forty years of basketball tradition this month as they host the second annual Gee-Gees Women’s Basketball Alumnae and Friends Hall of Fame Dinner on October 23 at St- Anthony’s Banquet Hall. 

The evening is sure to be filled with lots of laughter and unforgettable memories from the past forty years of basketball history. The program will also welcome two more inductees into the women’s basketball Hall of Fame: builder Warren Sutton and player Coleen Dufresne.

The first head coach of the Gee-Gees women’s basketball program, Warren Sutton made an immediate impact and surprised many, as he led a fresh, undistinguished team to the 1970-71 OUA playoffs in their first year of existence. Sutton went on to coach the women’s basketball team for a total of three years (1970-72, 1973-74), taking a break in 1971-72 to help assist the men’s basketball team. Not only was he coaching at the University of Ottawa during this time, he was also a systems analyst for the University. Not to mention, he was also a talented basketball player himself.

After playing for Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University), Sutton was drafted by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks in 1964, but after he was offered a spot on the franchise’s farm team, he was simply not interested in returning to the United States, where he is originally from.

Instead, he involved himself heavily in coaching club basketball (first in Montreal, then in Ottawa), coaching multiple teams at a time, as well as playing and refereeing. He was dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of the game. When one of his former club players who went on to attend the University of Ottawa found out about the establishment of a women’s basketball team, she suggested Sutton’s name to the athletic director at the time, Sue Cousineau. Shortly after, he would become the first head coach in the program’s history.

Sutton really enjoyed working with his group of young athletes and helping his team develop: “It was always a good experience. Ottawa had good talent at that time. Our girls always seemed to get along, so I only had to focus on the coaching.”

“In my coaching philosophy, the emphasis was not on winning, but for the most part on teaching the fundamentals and the team perspective – playing as a team. If you focused on that, winning took care of itself.”

In fact, it was Sutton who would recruit the second 2010 inductee, player Coleen Dufresne, after noticing her at a club basketball tournament in Montreal. “She was pretty impressive,” he recalls.

A 1975 All-Canadian, Dufresne had an outstanding five-year career with the Gee-Gees (1971-1975). She was the OUA leading scorer for three consecutive years (1971-72, 1972-73 and 1974-75) and remains eighth in the OUA record book for greatest average points per game in a career, having scored 559 points in 30 games for an average of 18.6. She is also a former member of Canada's women's basketball team and participated at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

In addition, Dufresne is a three-time CIS Coach of the Year award winner (1982-83, 1987-88, 1997-98). She served as head coach for the University of New Brunswick from 1980 to 1984 and went on to spend 18 years at the helm of the University of Manitoba Bisons (1984-2001). In 2001, she accepted the position as Athletic Director at the University of Manitoba, where she currently remains.

Dufresne says she was quite surprised when she was informed about her induction into the Hall of Fame. “I’m pretty thrilled about [the induction] to be completely honest. I did not expect it.  It’s pretty exciting.”

Her favourite memories as a Gee-Gee include the long bus trips together, especially to Laurentian, as well as the OUA championship banquets. At these banquets, each team was required to perform a skit and she recalls having great laughs with her teammates during this event. In fact, while visiting with former teammate Glynne Turner a short while back, the topic came up and both of them began singing one of the songs they came up with nearly 30 year ago...  and did not skip a beat.

“I could still sing it today!” she laughed, while cautioning she will not be performing live at the dinner.

Both Dufresne and Sutton are excited to reunite with the team in less than two weeks.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” says Sutton. “I’ve talked to four or five people so far that I haven’t seen in years and they are all going to be there, so I’m really getting pumped.” The last time he got together with some of the team was 15 years ago for the program’s 25th anniversary.

Dufresne hopes that as many of her teammates and former alumnae as possible will make it out for the event. She says that when her University of Manitoba Bisons basketball alumnae get together, “the joy that they get from being together is just great. After ten minutes, it’s like nothing ever changed.”

The second annual Gee-Gees Women’s Basketball Alumnae and Friends Hall of Fame Dinner will be held on October 23 at 7:00 p.m. at St- Anthony’s Banquet Hall. 

For more information on the Hall of Fame dinner, please contact Andy Sparks by e-mail at asparks@uottawa.caor by telephone at 613-562-5800, ext. 4321.