Simon Fraser head women's basketball coach Bruce Langford reached the 500-win milestone on Saturday with a win over Western Washington. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature University Women's Basketball

Bruce Langford: Simon Fraser women’s head basketball coach reaches 500-win milestone with Seniors’ Night win over WWU! “Who would have thought a 51-year-old high school coach could get 500 wins? Not me!”

BURNABY MOUNTAIN — It was about two years ago that Bruce Langford decided to make a donation.

Just ahead of his 70th birthday, Simon Fraser’s longtime women’s basketball coach decided to pay forward his own hoops education by packing up his 100 or so coaching books and manuals so that the impressionable minds of the future could partake in his carefully curated archive of learning.

Ask Langford about the day-to-day life of a devoted basketball coach and he, like all the greats, will tell you that the learning never stops.

The big difference?

At the age of 72, one of Canada’s winningest university basketball coaches of all time just keeps doing it by the book, even though he gave them all away.

On Saturday at the West Gym, at its annual Senior’s Night season-ending clash against rival Western Washington, Langford coached the Simon Fraser Red Leafs to a 68-67 win over the Vikings, giving him the 500th win of his career in this his 23rd season at the helm of the women’s program atop Burnaby Mountain.

“Who would have ever thought that a 51-year-old high school coach would get a (head coaching) job at a university and win 500 games,” stated Langford late Saturday night while sitting the stands at the Langley Events Centre to cheer on his younger brother Paul Langford, who was about to lead his Riverside Rapids into the B.C. senior girls Quad-A title game against North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks. “Really, who would have thought that? Not me.”


For all of his successes, including five U SPORTS national titles at SFU and a pair of NCAA Div. 2 Sweet 16 appearances, Langford took an unconventional path to 500 wins.

He never played the game, learned about how to coach by watching, asking others and especially reading those old coaching manuals.

He would build a dynasty at Heritage Park in Mission where he led the Highlanders to back-to-back B.C. top-tiered 3A titles in 2000 and 2001.

Bruce Langford began his Simon Fraser coaching career in 2001-02 and is well into his third decade at the helm. (Photo property of SFU athletics. All Rights Reserved)

Then, after winning that second title, he replaced Allison McNeill, the legendary former Canadian national team coach and the person who brought attention to the women’s program atop Burnaby Mountain by not only laying its foundation but raising its bar to the daily expectation of national championship aspiration.

McNeill went 363-79 over a 13-season run which included 11 NAIA national tourney appearances and two trips to the national championship game.

Langford’s generational stay at SFU is likely unique to the college basketball world.

To amass 500 wins as a rookie start-up college coach after the age of 50 would seem unprecedented.

Since moving to the NCAA Div. 2 ranks in 2010-11, with standouts like Nayo Rancock-Ekunwe, Erin Chambers, Kristina Collins, Jessica Jones, Ellen Kett and Jessica Wisotzki, the program has, as mentioned, twice qualified for the NCAA Sweet 16.

This season there are currently only five men’s Div. 1 coaches active past the age of 70.

They are Mike D’Antoni (76), Leonard Hamilton of Florida State (75), Fran Dunphy of La Salle (75), Jim Larranaga of Miami (74) and Rick Pitino of St. John’s (71).

On the women’s side, Stanford’s iconic Tara VanDerveer, 70, is the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach with 1,209 victories over her 45 year career, including the past 38 at Stanford.

Which begs the question ‘How much longer is Langford going to coach the Red Leafs before deciding to retire?

Before answering on Saturday, Langford first had to confirm his actual age.

So he shouted over to younger brother Peter Langford, also at the LEC to watch Paul Langford coach the Riverside girls, who would incidentally go on to suffer a 78-73 loss.

“Seventy-two, ok… yeah, I’m 72,” he says turning to his inquisitor. “Well, I can’t get to 600 wins so I might as well quit… no.”

Turning serious he said: “I would like a little more. I love the kids I have coming back next year. I would like a little more.”

That’s coach-speak for one season at a time, unless deciding to make a stronger declaration either way at a future date.

The point guard and her coach. Dani Langford chats with her dad, Simon Fraser head coach Bruce Langford at the old West Gym atop Burnaby Mountain. (Photo property of Simon Fraser athletics 2021. All Rights Reserved)

Without question, the 2023-24 season has seen Langford coach up his team as well as any he has ever led.

The Red Leafs had started the GNAC campaign with a 2-6 record and where in danger of falling into the conference basement with a loss in their next game.

They rallied, however, making some rotational tweaks and watching its young core truly come into its own.

SFU has since gone a sizzling 8-2 since within the conference and its win over Western Washington means a fifth-place finish and an opening-round GNAC Championship clash against the host team Central Washington when the six-team event opens Thursday (2:15 p.m.) in Ellensburg, Wash.

Langford says he found out he was closing in on 500 when he read the pre-game notes package prior to the team’s game at CWU on Feb. 8.

The Red Leafs lost that game and also dropped another to first-place Montana State-Billings, and those setbacks, along with the fact that its forfeited win over Western Oregon did not count as an actual win for the head coach are what set up the dream scenario for a 500th win on Senior’s Night.

“My daughter (former Red Leafs guard Dani Langford) said ‘This is way better than getting it the other way,’” Langford said of the alternative of getting it earlier by backing into the victory through the forfeiture win and a potential win  on the road. “Things are meant to happen the way that they are meant to happen because Western is a rival, they are ranked No. 13 in the country, and it was Senior’s Night. I was surprised with how excited our kids were with the record.”

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One thought on “Bruce Langford: Simon Fraser women’s head basketball coach reaches 500-win milestone with Seniors’ Night win over WWU! “Who would have thought a 51-year-old high school coach could get 500 wins? Not me!”

  1. Congrats coach Langford on hitting the 500 win mark. I’ve known Bruce for many years now and I knew when I first met him that he was any outstanding student of coaching this beautiful game. He is amongst a handful of fundamentally focused coaches we have in this province. Allison and Mike McNeill, Rich Chambers are in that handful. Our talented and upcoming young coaches would benefit greatly by simply talking/hanging out with the likes of Bruce at el…
    Congrats again coach Langford!!!

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