Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Tara VanDerVeer, the NCAA's winningest basketball coach, is retiring

Stanford announced Tuesday evening that Tara VanDerVeer, the NCAA's winningest basketball coach in 45 years with 1,216 wins, is retiring.

Kate Paye, a former player under VanDerveer and a longtime member of his staff, is in talks to succeed him, the school added.

VanDerVeer, 70, remains one of the most storied coaches in the game, winning three national championships (1990, 1992 and 2021) and leading them to 14 Final Fours in his 38 seasons at Stanford. Naismith and the Women's Basketball Hall of Famer previously coached at Idaho (1978 to 1980) and Ohio State (1980 to 1985).

“Basketball is a huge team project, and I am very grateful to every person who has supported me and our teams throughout my coaching career,” VanDerveer said in a statement. “I've been spoiled for nearly four decades as the best and brightest coach at one of the world's leading organizations. Coupled with my time at Ohio State and Idaho and being the head coach of the US National Team, it's been an unforgettable ride. I've enjoyed the journey of each season, a group of young women working hard for each other. , saw the creation of an unbreakable bond.Success is a byproduct.

“I've loved the game of basketball since I was a kid, and it's given me a lot throughout my life. I hope I've been able to give back at least a little.”

VanDerveer, who finishes with an all-time record of 1,216-271 (81.8%), will continue to work with Stanford and the athletic department in an advisory capacity, the school said.

“Tara's name is synonymous with the game, and women's basketball would not be what it is today without her pioneering work,” Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said in a statement. “He has been committed to this campus for 40 years and is a mentor to all student-athletes who have come through his program. Tara immediately built one of the sport's iconic programs upon her arrival at Stanford, and has since maintained that standard for nearly four decades.

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“A dynamic and positive teacher, a confident friend and mentor, Tara's impact is unmatched, and I don't think it's a stretch to call her one of the most influential people associated with this university. We look forward to finding appropriate ways to honor her profound impact and legacy at Stanford.”

VanDerVeer surpassed retired Duke and Army coach Mike Krzyzewski's NCAA record of 1,202 victories on Jan. 21 with his 1,203rd career victory in a 65-56 home win over Oregon State. His final victory came as his Cardinal defeated Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Maples Pavilion. Second-seeded Stanford lost to Final Four team NC State in the Portland 4 Region semifinals.

VanDerVeer — a Massachusetts native who grew up in New York — may be best known for establishing a West Coast stronghold in California, but his impact and excellence were felt nationally and beyond. He has led Stanford to the NCAA Tournament every season since 1988, second only to Tennessee's 36 consecutive appearances. Compiling 28 Sweet 16 and 21 Elite Eight berths, he joins UConn's Geno Auriemma (136) and Tennessee's Pat Summitt (112) in totaling at least 100 NCAA Tournament wins.

His 14 Final Four appearances are third behind Auriemma (23) and Summitt (18), and he is one of five coaches with at least three national titles (along with Auriemma, Summitt, Baylor/LSU's Kim Mulkey and South Carolina's Dan Staley).

Van der Veer withdrew from Stanford during the 1995–96 campaign in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games, where he served as head coach of the US National Team. The team's undefeated run in Atlanta — the program's first with seven gold medals and counting — is considered a big starting point for the WNBA's founding in 1997.

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It's fitting that VanDerVeer will step up from coaching after the Pac-12 Conference implosion he helped propel to such incredible heights. The last two years of conference realignment will come to a head this summer when 10 Pac-12 schools officially leave for the Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC, with Stanford next in line.

For decades Stanford was practically synonymous with Pac-12 women's basketball, dominating the conference with 27 conference regular-season titles since 1989 and 15 of its 23 tournament crowns. The standard on and off the court VanDerVeer set at Stanford, which other Pac-12 coaches have long said, elevated the entire conference from something that was an afterthought nationally to one of the premier women's basketball leagues in the country.

The Pac-12 boasted five teams in the last Sweet 16, the result of a concerted effort to build the conference led by its president in VanDerVeer.

“Tara's a legend on a global level, but he's a huge influence on me on a personal level,” longtime UCLA coach Corey Close told ESPN. “I've been at one of her camps, I've played against her teams in college, worked at her camps, and now I've coached against her and been the beneficiary of her guidance. She was remarkable for her performance, her guidance and her example. Our sport will be indebted to her for a long time. I Nothing but the best for her. She will have this retirement.”

Before the start of the final Pac-12 season, VanDerVeer told ESPN he was “thrilled” the school found a new home in the ACC amid such tough circumstances.

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“I think it's going to be an amazing conference for women's basketball,” Vanderveer told ESPN in October. “We're very grateful that the ACC likes Stanford. And our biggest thing is to continue to compete at a high level, and I want to coach players who want a combination of great academics and great basketball. We've recruited a lot of kids from the East Coast, so our recruiting will be good.”

VanDerveer has produced decades of successful WNBA players (former No. 1 picks Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Jennifer Azzi and Candice Wiggins), sending a total of 30 to the WNBA draft since the league's inception — the second most by a head coach. . Senior Cameron Brink, who was recently named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, is expected to be a lottery pick in next week's draft.

“He's serious about the game, treating it with the respect it deserves as a platform that empowers players beyond our wildest dreams … but doesn't take himself too seriously,” Cini told ESPN. “Tara laughs, dances, and always celebrates the team more than herself.”

Vanderveer's last official day at Stanford will be May 8, the 39th anniversary of his hire, the school said. A press conference will be held at the campus on Wednesday.

“I love Tara. She's amazing. We've bonded a little bit — she's been to our practices, I've seen her on campus,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Vanderveer's retirement. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for her. And my initial reaction is I'm thrilled for her. She can go water skiing. She loves the water.”

Auriemma, who has coached his entire career at UConn since 1985, will enter the 2023-24 campaign with 1,213 wins, three shy of VanDerveer's record.

Paye, who played for VanDerveer from 1991 to 1995, has spent the past 17 years on VanDerveer's staff, including eight as an associate head coach.

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