Degrees honour Canadian basketball's first family

- Mike McNeney

Husband and wife coaching legends Kathy and Ken Shields, who led their teams to a combined 15 national basketball titles at the University of Victoria, accepted honorary doctor of laws degrees from the university at a special convocation ceremony on Thursday morning.

A crowd of 150 family, friends, former players and staff gathered for the presentation in the ceremonial hall of the First Peoples House, a departure from the usual practice of conducting convocation ceremonies in the University Centre.

Ken Shields said he was “delighted” to receive the honour in the First Peoples House, since a key period of his childhood was spent in Masset.

“It is the most special place to have had this event,” he said. “My roots in Haida Gwaii are deep. I have family there. I learned my first basketball in Haida Gwaii. So to have this convocation, and to receive this prestigious honour in the First Peoples House, is just something I’m so delighted for.”

Ken Shields came to UVic in 1976 as head coach of the Vikes men’s basketball program and athletic coordinator. His teams won a record seven consecutive Canadian titles from 1979 to 1985. He was named Canadian coach of the year four times. Recently retired NBA star Steve Nash—also a UVic honorary degree recipient—cited him as a key influence.

Few, if any, women in Canadian basketball have achieved the success and respect that Kathy Shields earned during her 23 seasons as head coach of the Vikes women’s basketball team, beginning in 1978.

She guided the Vikes to eight national titles and her teams recorded 320 wins and only 50 losses in league play during that period. She was named Canadian coach of the year on three occasions and she’s a past recipient of the 3M Coaching Award for Excellence.

Kathy Shields said they had never given any thought to the possibility of one day receiving the university’s highest academic honour.

“This is just so far from anything we thought about. We just did our jobs and enjoyed our passion,” she said. “At the time, we never thought about the (championship) banners or the wins, we just thought about the players and the experiences we had.”

The gathering also marked the first convocation ceremony overseen by Chancellor Shelagh Rogers since beginning her term in January. Her formal installation as chancellor will be part of spring convocation ceremonies in June.


In this story

Keywords: honorary doctorate, convocation, athletics, Vikes

People: Ken Shields, Kathy Shields

Related stories