Sue Darling’s prep hoops records teeter on extinction. Only the 20.9 points-per-game mark set in 1978 still hangs in the Canyon Del Oro gym.
Though her family enjoys reminding her of that fact, Darling’s happy back at home in Tucson.
This fall, she rounds out her winding career as an assistant women’s basketball coach, recently hired by rookie Arizona head coach Niya Butts.
“Obviously I have some pretty good experience and I’ve been around the block a couple of times,” Darling said. “(Butts has) put together a really good staff, and I think we all compliment each other. I just feel fortunate to be a part of it.”
Darling followed her sole year at CDO by playing for the Wildcats, where she captained the 1981 and 1982 squads while earning an education degree.
The Maryland native cut her coaching teeth at Salpointe Catholic, Pima Community College and finally at Amphitheater High before taking a college job at Arizona State in 1990.
Darling crossed the country twice, for two more assistant positions at the collegiate and professional levels, before landing her first head coaching post in 1998 at the Air Force Academy.
She lent her assistance at Northwestern in 2001, across Lake Michigan from Butts, an assistant coach at Michigan State at the time.
But wanderlust and the Rocky Mountains again beckoned.
Darling, ready to refresh from coaching life, joined the Boulder Police Department for three years — a sabbatical she coated in trademark deadpan humor.
“I just got to a point in my basketball career where I felt like I needed more tools to motivate the kids,” Darling said. “So I thought I’d go learn how to shoot a gun and use a Taser.”
Darling’s quick-draw wit offered up promise for this year’s hoops squad.
After losing to the Pac-10’s bottom half by an average four points per game, Darling said a little “shoring up” on both ends of the court should yield big changes to the Wildcats.
A small revolution, perhaps, but that’s exactly what Arizona’s looking for during their first year in the Butts era.
Butts should know a winner on sight, having won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1997 and 1998 for Tennessee.
Common friends linked the former strangers, but the coach was instantly won over by Darling’s blend of Arizona ties, analysis and all-around hoops smarts.
“She has the passion for this and her hunger, her fire for Arizona basketball is way, way off the charts,” Butts said.
“The more I work with her, the more I get to know her, the more I know I made the right decision to bring her on board.”