Tara Vanderveer adds to sparkling basketball legacy with her 900th career win

A November 27, 2013 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico provided Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer with the 900th win of her glorious coaching career. In the 83-59 margin of victory, it made her only the fifth NCAA coach to reach the remarkable plateau. The victory extends her career coaching record to 900-204.

Stanford players held up signs with the number 900 on them once the buzzer signaled. Chiney Ogwumike contributed 27 points and 13 rebounds while Mikaela Ruef posted 14 points and 12 rebounds. Of note, both played for Stanford when Vanderveer logged career win 800. Former players and fans also tuned into social media to shower Vanderveer with heartfelt congratulations.

Players surround Vanderveer (holding the game ball) with 900 signs. (Photo credit: Casey Murphy/Plan BC3/AP)

Players surround Vanderveer (holding the game ball) with 900 signs. (Photo credit: Casey Murphy/Plan BC3/AP)

While she was very low key about the win, she joined the likes of Jody Conradt (900), C. Vivian Stringer (905), Sylvia Hatchell (908) and Pat Summitt in the 900-win club. The all-time wins mark is held by Summitt with 1,098 victories. Considering her last 100 victories came in a three-year span, the 1,000-win mark is feasible by 2016.

Although Vanderveer is 60 years old, she has indicated that she has no plans to retire. Similar to baseball legend Casey Stengel, she could easily coach into her 70’s. Considering that Vanderveer coaches for the love of the game, the sight of her on the Stanford sideline into the next decade would not be far fetched.

Having graduated from the University of Indiana in 1975, she would sneak into the practices of the men’s team in order to obverse head coach Bobby Knight. Taking down notes on his strategies, he would become an inspiration to mentor. Having majored in sociology, she would be a three-year starter for the Hoosiers while earning induction into their Hall of Fame in 1995.

During her road to 900 wins, Vanderveer also coached with two other programs. Her first two seasons as a head coach were with the University of Idaho, starting in 1978. Ironically, she lost her first game. Five seasons at Ohio State would follow where she compiled a 110-37 mark before joining Stanford in 1985. In those 28 magical years, she led the program to 748 wins and an astounding 21 regular-season conference titles. This was complemented by two national championships and 10 appearances in the Final Four, including a string of five consecutive appearances from 2008-12, respectively.

The players she has coached includes a venerable who’s who of women’s basketball. Summer Games gold medalist Jennifer Azzi (whom she coached at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games) was one of her first superstars. Having followed in her footsteps, Azzi is now the head coach for the University of San Francisco. Other alumni that have joined Azzi in the coaching ranks include players such as June Daugherty, Lindy LaRocque, Melanie Murphy and Charmin Smith.

Other superstars that Vanderveer recruited included Val Whiting, who would help Stanford capture the national title in 1990. Modern stars include the likes of Jayne Appel, Nicole Powell, Candice Wiggins and the Ogwumike sisters, Nneka and Chiney.

Vanderveer’s sister Heidi is also an NCAA basketball coach. In her first year as an assistant coach to Pat Summitt at Tennessee, she was part of the NCAA championship team. Currently the head coach at UC San Deigo, she talks basketball with her sister every day. Reputed for establishing teams in which her players were fundamentally sound basketball players, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2011. While the greatest attribute in her career might be her consistency, all the players whose lives have been touched by her coaching acumen would attest that she is also a Hall of Famer in life.