Sue Darling enters her fifth season leading the NAU women's basketball program after spending four seasons as an assistant coach at Arizona. Darling has 29 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.
Darling led the Lumberjacks back to the Big Sky tournament last season for the first time since 2009 as she continued the program's upward trajectory. The 'Jacks earned the tournament's fifth-seed after posting a 13-17 record and an even 9-9 mark in conference play. The 13 overall victories and nine conference wins were the program's highest total since their Big Sky runner-up season in 2006-07. A big reason for NAU's return to the Big Sky Championships was its dramatic improvement on the defensive end of the court as Darling improved the team's defense in every facet from ranking in the bottom two the year prior to the top six in 2014-15. NAU's points allowed dropped from 79.3 points per game to 64.8 and its opponent field goal percentage improved from .453 to .387. The Lumberjacks had two all-conference players in their two seniors Erikka Banks (second team) and Raven Anderson (honorable mention).
The offensive coordinator at Arizona, Darling had the Lumberjacks clicking on all cylinders offensively during her second season in 2013-14. NAU finished the season with an average of 72.8 points per game while shooting an impressive 44.7 percent. The scoring average was the third-highest in school history while their season field goal percentage was second-best. Darling guided senior Amanda Frost, who was named to the All-Big Sky First Team and received All-American honors from College Sports Madness, to one of the finest seasons in program history as she set a new single season school scoring record with 652 points - the fifth most in Big Sky history. Although the Lumberjacks were a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end, defensive struggles limited NAU's overall success. The team's youth was on full display all season with eight true freshmen on the roster, but with Darling's guidance the first-year Lumberjacks picked up valuable experience with seven of the eight freshmen playing at least 16 games. Brittani Lusain was named the conference's Outstanding Freshman. Through it all, NAU managed to increase their win total and concluded the season at 9-20, 6-14 in the Big Sky.
During her first season in 2012-13, Darling guided the Lumberjack women's basketball team to their most Big Sky victories since the 2006-07 season, finishing 7-13 in Big Sky conference play. The Lumberjacks were in contention for a spot in the Big Sky Championship tournament until the final game of the season and swept three Big Sky teams during conference play, including Big Sky Championship qualifiers Eastern Washington and Southern Utah. Darling's first season would end with an 8-21 overall record and she led the Lumberjacks to its most road wins since 2006-07. The Lumberjacks saw an improvement on the defensive end from the year prior as their opponent points per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage all decreased during Darling's inaugural season. Under Darling's watch, senior Amy Patton became just the second player in program history to become a four-time All-Big Sky selection as she was named to the All-Big Sky first team. Patton led the Big Sky in scoring and became NAU's all-time leader in career points, rebounds and 3-pointers made during the season.
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.
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).
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.
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.