Arizona Assistant Darling Named Women’s Basketball Head Coach
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Sue Darling, an assistant coach at Arizona for the last four seasons, has been selected as the 10th head coach in Northern Arizona women's basketball history. Darling has 27 years of basketball coaching experience, including stints as an assistant at both Arizona and Arizona State and three years as the head coach at Air Force. She replaces nine-year head coach Laurie Kelly, who resigned in April to become the head coach at Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.).
Northern Arizona Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos announced the hiring on Monday.
"We are excited to have an experienced coach with deep ties in the state of Arizona to lead our women's basketball program," said Campos. "Sue Darling is a high energy, dedicated coach who wants to develop a program that will represent NAU and Flagstaff. She is a great addition to our coaching staff."
As the top assistant for head coach Niya Butts at Arizona, Darling served as the offensive coordinator and directed player and team development. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, Darling was also instrumental in recruiting, scouting, marketing and community relations. In four seasons with UA, Darling was part of a coaching staff that led Arizona to its first postseason appearance since the 2004-05 season.
"Sue Darling is a great addition to Northern Arizona University's athletics program," said NAU President John Haeger. "She brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm that will invigorate the women's basketball program and engage our students, alumni and the community."
As offensive coordinator for the Wildcats, Darling was responsible for offensive planning and strategy, offensive instruction and game-time decisions. During the 2010-11 season, Arizona ranked No. 28 nationally and No. 3 in the Pac-10 in scoring offense (73.7 points per game), No. 31 nationally and No. 3 in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage (43.5%), and 55th nationally and third in the Pac-10 in assists (14.3).
"NAU is a special place and I am thrilled to be here," Darling said. "Dr. Haeger has reinvigorated NAU athletics with his vision and commitment, and I look forward to making NAU women's basketball a source of great pride and tradition for us all."
"I am really looking forward to getting to work and turning our program into a program that excels and inspires - a program of which we can all be proud," Darling added. "There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but at the end of the day this is a gem of a program for many, many reasons. I am so excited about this opportunity."
During her coaching career, Darling has coached at every level of women's basketball – high school, junior college, college, and professional. She has been a head coach at the high school level, starting at Salpointe Catholic in Tucson while also serving as the head coach at Amphitheater and Mullen high schools. She spent one season as the head coach at Pima Community College (1985-86) and was an assistant coach with the Seattle Reign, a women's professional team in the former American Basketball Association, during the 1996-97 season.
Though her coaching career has covered many levels of the game, she has spent the most time coaching at Division I universities. Her first collegiate coaching experience came at St. John's University, where she was a graduate assistant coach, followed by the first of two stints at Arizona State during the 1990-91 season. She left the following year and spent two seasons as an assistant at Dartmouth before returning to the Sun Devils as an assistant from 1993-96. Darling earned her first head coaching position at Air Force in 1998, leading the Falcons for three seasons, before serving as an assistant at Northwestern from 2002-04. Prior to returning to the collegiate coaching ranks at Arizona in 2008, Darling was a police officer for the city of Boulder, Colo. from 2005-08.
A 1983 graduate of the University of Arizona, Darling was a member of the Wildcat team from 1978-82 and lettered in 1981 and 1982 while serving as team captain during the 1982 season. She played high school basketball at Canyon Del Oro, north of Tucson, and was selected as the school's first Female Athlete of the Year as a senior in 1978 while also being named captain of the All-Conference team. She was inducted to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 for her playing and coaching service of nearly three decades in the county.
"What excites me most about this opportunity is the chance to get to know and work with the special group of young women who are returning this year," said Darling. "Look in their eyes and you will see their hearts. They are very excited about the future. They are hungry, they are motivated, and they want to be coached. I want to be their coach and am honored to have the opportunity."
Darling earned a bachelor's degree in education from Arizona in 1983 and earned a master's of business administration in marketing from St. John's University in 1988.
Sue Darling Coaching History
||Mullen High School|
||Seattle Reign (ABL)|
||Assistant Coach||Arizona State|
||Amphitheater High School|
||Graduate Assistant Coach
||St. John's University|
|1984-86||Head Coach||Salpointe Catholic High School
||Pima Community College|
Sue Darling Education
MA, Business Administration in Marketing, St. Johns, 1988
BA, Education, Arizona, 1983
Sue Darling Playing History
1978-82, Arizona, Team Captain 1982
1974-78, Canyon Del Oro HS, School Female Athlete of the Year 1978
What They're Saying About Sue Darling
Courtney Banghart - Head Women's Basketball Coach - Princeton University
"Building and sustaining a winning tradition involves many facets and there's no doubt that Sue Darling has all the intangibles to be successful at Northern Arizona. First and foremost, she is someone who gets the big picture by caring about and succeeding in all of the little things along the way. Sue has a genuine respect for the student-athlete experience and will be a great mentor to her players. She is a caring communicator on and off the court, with a humility and kindness that will serve her well with the various constituents of her program. She has a wealth of experience, having coached the game at a variety of levels all over country. She also has deep roots in the state of Arizona and has earned the respect of the coaches and athletes in the state. It's a very exciting time for Northern Arizona Women's Basketball, just as it's an exciting time for Sue to make her mark."
Niya Butts – Head Women's Basketball Coach – University of Arizona
"We are extremely happy for Coach Darling. I think she will do a great job at NAU. Certainly we will miss her, but understand she is ready to start her own program over there. I will be cheering for them all the time, except when they play Arizona."
Jacquie Hullah - Head Basketball Coach - Carnegie Mellon University
"As a veteran of the game, Sue brings a wealth of experience, talent and leadership qualities to NAU Women's Basketball. Current players and prospective recruits will be drawn to Sue's infectious attitude and positive coaching style. She is a player's coach with tremendous teaching, communication, and motivational skills that will be an immediate and lasting impact on the program."
Ify Ibekwe - University of Arizona Former Player
"Playing for Coach Darling was one of the best experiences I could ever have at the UA. She is fun and energetic. She was an amazing coach who wants every one of her players to improve and get better. She worked with us on and off the court. She is an amazing person who is loving and caring. She brought us together as a team because of who she is."
Annette Gutierrez - Head Girl's Basketball Coach - Tucson High School (Former player)
"Coach Darling is an unbelievable coach. She was my coach in high school and was one of the most motivating and inspirational coaches I have had in my basketball career. She is a hard-working and has an awesome positive attitude. She is able to connect in special ways with her players and bring out the best in them. NAU is very lucky to have her."