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Stanford's Tara VanDerveer passes Pat Summitt as winningest women's hoops coach

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·5-min read
Tara VanDerveer with the team on the bench.
Tara VanDerveer is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I women's college basketball history. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The coaching leaderboard has a new name. Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer is the all-time wins leader in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history with the Cardinal’s 104-61 victory over Pacific on Tuesday.

It was win No. 1,099 for VanDerveer, breaking revolutionary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s mark of 1,098 wins. She thanked her family, Stanford and her current and former players after Tuesday’s win. She also honored Summitt.

“I really hope Pat Summitt is looking down and saying ‘Good job, Tara. Keep it going,’” VanDerveer told ESPN after the game.

VanDerveer spoke about Summitt’s influence on her career after tying the mark Sunday night in a 83-38 win over California

“We would talk, and I think that one of the things, I like the idea of competing against great coaches to get better,” VanDerveer said. “If I tied this record with her, she helped me do it, because of playing against her teams.”

Stars honor VanDerveer

Notable sports figures and members of the Stanford community including Billie Jean King, John Elway, Steve Kerr and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared in a video congratulating VanDerveer on the broadcast after Tuesday’s game.

It’s been a bumpy end of the road to the magic number. VanDerveer came into the season needing five wins to break the record, but the milestone has continuously been put off with COVID-19 related game cancellations and postponements for the first-ranked squad.

VanDerveer keeps building impressive career

VanDerveer, 67, is already in both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2011) and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2002). Her win total includes two seasons at Idaho (42-14) and five seasons at Ohio State (110-37). She took over the Stanford program ahead of the 1985-86 season and is 1,099-253 (.813) all-time in her 42-year career.

The 1990 and 1992 Stanford teams won NCAA championships and 12 of her Cardinal squads have reached the Final Four. She’s led teams to the NCAA tournament 31 times in 34 tries. The only misses were her first two seasons — Stanford struggled prior to her arrival — and this past March. The Cardinal would have easily made the field and competed for a title if the NCAA tournament weren’t canceled.

Head Coach Tara VanDerveer of Stanford instructs her players during a game between Stanford and Pacific at Alex G. Spanos Center on December 15, 2020 in Stockton, California.(Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Tara VanDerveer coaches Stanford during her record-breaking night on Tuesday. (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Her teams have won 30 or more games 15 times in her career and have had double-digit losses in seven. Only four teams finished at .500 or worse.

VanDerveer is a four-time national coach of the year (’88, ’89, ’90, ’11) and 15-time Pac-12 coach of the year. Her players’ top national accolades include two Wade Trophy player of the year awards (Candice Wiggins, Jennifer Azzi) and two Naismith player of the year awards (Kate Starbird, Azzi).

Her collegiate record doesn’t include it, but she stepped away to coach Team USA for the 1996 Olympics. They won gold in a historic 8-0 tournament that led to the formation of the WNBA.

A total of 30 Stanford players have gone on to play a regular season WNBA game and 12 were first-round draft picks. The most famous VanDerveer graduate right now is arguably the Los Angeles Sparks and WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike, the 2012 No. 1 pick who went on to win the 2016 championship and MVP.

VanDerveer trails only longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for most Division I coaching wins. He has 1,159 victories as of Tuesday afternoon.

Summitt’s legacy will always live on

Summitt led the Tennessee Lady Vols for 38 years and retired after the 2012 season. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 and died in June 2016 at the age of 64.

Her 1,098 victories was the most in Division I college basketball at the time of her death. Krzyzewski passed that mark in March 2018.

Summitt’s coaching record is extraordinary. She won eight national titles and seven NCAA Coach of the Year awards. Her teams never had a losing season and every player who finished their eligibility as a Vol graduated. It’s her influence and work lifting the entire sport that is what will live on, and in many ways VanDerveer is the same.

“If anyone is going to (pass Pat Summitt) I think it’s very fitting that it’s Tara because she has fought for all the things Pat fought for,” Cal coach Charmin Smith said last week, via Michelle Smith at Pac-12.com. They did it in different ways, but there was a lot of mutual respect there. I know Tara had a ton of love and respect for Pat.”

Geno Auriemma close to passing Summitt

UConn coach Geno Auriemma will also pass Summit’s mark soon. He’s sitting at 1,092 wins and needs seven to overcome Summitt. Auriemma, 66, is in his 36th season with UConn, the only college program he’s coached.

Auriemma has the best win percentage of any women’s college basketball coach on the top 75 wins list. He’s 1,092-142 (.885). Former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore and current Baylor coach Kim Mulkey are the only other coaches a win percentage higher than 85.

VanDerveer and Auriemma will duke out the top spot alone likely for the rest of their careers. Texas A&M coach Gary Blair (819 wins) and Little Rock coach Joe Foley (804) are the closest active coaches to them on the wins list. They’re 12th and 13th, respectively.

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