It’s been 29 years (1992) since Stanford Lady Cardinals head coach Tara VanDerveer won a national championship. If the legendary sideline stalker wins on Easter Sunday, it’ll be the longest time ever for a coach between titles.
But that just goes to show you how hard it is to win a c’hip unless you’re Geno Auriemma (11) or the late great GOAT Pat Summitt (9). Their circumstances are somewhat different, however, as they evolved into basketball factories that cornered the market on elite talent, were adored by journalists, and were bigger than the game itself. That media push helped those schools attract a long line of future WNBA stars.
For the third time in her career, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer was named the Naismith women's college basketball coach of the year. https://t.co/GPTUgm9V2m
— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) April 2, 2021
With Stanford unwavering in its lofty academic standards for admission, VanDerveer has had to grind her way to the most victories in women’s college basketball (1123) in her 43 seasons. She’s had to pick her spots and get lucky at times when it came to recruiting and competing at a national level.
Her consistency and success have helped Stanford become an active participant in the women’s basketball explosion. After two titles over the first three decades of her career, the old general is back again. Vibrant as ever. Ambitious as ever.
She will meet a feisty Arizona squad, whose coach, Adia Barnes, received some heat for flipping the bird to the “skeptics” who doubted they could knock off UConn in the Final Four.
Six Degrees Of Separation In Greatness
VanDerveer beat someone she helped mentor (Dawn Staley) in a real Final Four thriller (66-65) on Friday. The tightly-contested game wasn’t decided until the Gamecocks missed two shots as time expired.
VanDerveer and her team had to overcome many obstacles to get here. They spent 10 straight weeks on the road which amounted to 86 total days away from Maples Pavilion on the campus of Stanford University, due to the strict COVID-19 bans and stay-at-home orders in place in the state of California they
Crafting The Women’s Hoops Explosion
VanDerveer was elated but also felt bad for Staley as those two have forged a real friendship dating back to the 1996 Olympic Games which took place in Atlanta. During those Olympic Games, VanDerveer took a year of absence from Palo Alto CA, to help usher in and establish a new foundation for modern women’s basketball in the United States.
Staley was a reserve point guard who spent a lot of time with VanDerveer and together won a gold medal on American soil. It also helped create two women’s professional leagues in the United States.
Thanks to the ABL (1996-98) and WNBA (1997- Present) no longer would college be the culmination of a young women’s domestic basketball career. And unlike the NBA, the prospect of a professional career still hasn’t lessened the significance of college achievements. A dominant four-year college career is still the direct pipeline to the pros for aspiring WNBA ballers.
Can Arizona Clash With A Titan & Win Again?
Barnes talked about the disrespect her team has received the entire tournament. The Wildcats were even left off of ESPN’s Final Four promo leading up to Friday’s games.
If Arizona can win, Barnes becomes the first women’s coach to lead her alma Mater to a national championship. She already is the first to lead one to the title game since (Sonja Hogg) did so for Louisiana Tech in 1982 and (Wendy Larry) did it while at the helm at Old Dominion in 1983. Both were runner-up in those back-to-back seasons.
Since 2013 the PAC-12 has had 6 teams reach the Final Four, but this time its a guarantee the “Conference Of Champions” as they call themselves will be guaranteed to take home a National Championship.
Maybe we should show the best conference in Women’s college basketball just a bit more respect.