Karen Dalton coached her 218th WNBL game on Friday. The milestone alone, though impressive, signifies much more for one of Australia’s great basketball families.
The Sydney Uni game against the Logan Thunder marked the 1400th for the Dalton family at professional basketball’s national league level. The record achieved by siblings Brad, Leanne, Karen and Mark Dalton is believed to be the most for any family at the top level in this country.
Karen Dalton is in her 11th season as coach after registering 375 games over 20 seasons as a WNBL player, while Leanne Dalton played 96 WNBL games over seven seasons between 1990 and 2003.
Brothers Brad and Mark Dalton played a combined 611 NBL games, Brad registering 290 games over 13 seasons between 1979 and 1991, while Mark Dalton amassed 421 games over 17 seasons between 1984 and 2000.
The Dalton family name has adorned the singlet of professional teams throughout the country, representing clubs from Bankstown to Brisbane, Canberra to Geelong, Wollongong to West Adelaide, as well as all four siblings suiting up for their home town Sydney, in a combined 68 seasons of national league service.
Karen was inducted into the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame as a player in 2007, after a hugely successful playing career that saw her represent her country at four World Championships and two Olympic games, including the very first Australian women’s Olympic basketball team in 1984.
In another Australian sporting family first, in 1988 Karen and Brad Dalton became the first brother and sister to represent Australia in the same sport at the same Olympic Games.
Fittingly, the game that brought up the 1400th for the family was against the Logan Thunder, whose General Manager is none other than Mark Dalton. Mark has moved from the hardwood to the front office, taking charge of the newest WNBL franchise in South-East Queensland.
The Dalton name lives on through Karen alone now, the only one still pacing the floorboards at the professional level, running up the games scoreboard for the family.
Other families synonymous with longevity in professional basketball in this country include the Gazes, Lindsay and Andrew and the Mahers, Tom and Robyn.
Lindsay Gaze retired from the National Basketball League in 2005 after coaching 651 games for the Melbourne Tigers at the national level. In the same year Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze retired from the NBL, after playing a then record 612 games, as a five time Olympian and seven time league MVP, giving the father and son pairing 1263 games of service, just 137 games shy of the Daltons’ mark.
Husband and wife Tom and Robyn Maher have combined for almost 700 games between them, as coach and player respectively. The Mahers’ tally, like the Daltons, continues to rise with Tom Maher currently coaching the Bulleen Boomers in the WNBL but the pair has a long way to go if they are to reach the Daltons’ count.
Robyn Maher amassed 369 games as a WNBL player, while Tom has coached in 310 national league games, 256 WNBL games and 54 NBL games, which he achieved over three seasons at the helm of the Hobart Devils.
By Ryan Mobilia