PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — Tara VanDerveer became nostalgic after reaching another major coaching milestone.
VanDerveer became the fifth women’s coach to reach 900 victories with No. 6 Stanford’s 83-59 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday night, and she was grateful for the support she had over the years.
“It goes fast,” the Hall of Famer said. “I can remember my first game and different games in different places. Obviously some really big games, it goes really fast. I’m very thankful for the places I coached, the assistants I worked with, the athletic directors I worked for. The outstanding players I coached. The fabulous fans at Idaho, Ohio State and Stanford. I live a blessed life.”
The 60-year-old VanDerveer, who is 900-204 in her career, joined Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt with the milestone win. The Hall of Fame coach was presented with a game ball after the final buzzer and the players held up signs with “900” written on them.
“We played really well because we not only wanted to play well, but we wanted to play well for Tara so she’d have a good memory of the game,” Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike said. “She said in the locker room that anytime she’ll think about her 900th win she’ll think about how well we played. Glad we made her proud. She’s a very humble person. We’re excited to put a smile on her face.”
VanDerveer is 748-153 at Stanford after spending two seasons at Idaho, her first time as a head coach, then five at Ohio State. She started coaching by tutoring her younger sister, Marie, per her father’s request if she wanted to keep living at home.
At the beginning, VanDerveer sent letters to the top 20 college programs in the country. She wound up at Ohio State as a volunteer coach of the junior varsity team. Those Buckeyes went 8-0, which she counts as one of her two undefeated teams along with the 1996 American Olympic gold medalists.
There have been many more winning teams since, though the Cardinal haven’t captured a national championship since 1992 despite five recent trips to the Final Four, a run that ended last season.
“When I started coaching it never enters your mind winning any games. I live in the moment for that game, that season. I’m not a bean counter,” VanDerveer said.
No. 900 wasn’t in doubt much after the start. The Cardinal jumped out to a quick lead scoring 13 of the first 19 points. It didn’t get any better for Florida Gulf Coast as Stanford extended the advantage to 34-12 with just under 8 minutes left in the first half. Ogwumike had 16 of Stanford’s points at that point.
The Eagles (3-3) only baskets to that point came on 3-pointers as they missed 17 of their first 21 shots.
Florida Gulf Coast got within 12 in the second half before Stanford pulled away.
Kaneisha Atwater scored 15 points and Stephanie Haas added 14 for the Eagles.