ALERT: VanDerveer wins No. 1,099, passes Summitt for all-time women’s record

No. 1 Stanford delivers record-breaking victory at Pacific

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Earlier this year, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer might have imagined this particular win happening a little differently. It might have taken place at home, for one thing. It might not have happened during a pandemic. She might have been able to celebrate with her family, and with thousands of supportive fans packed in the stands witnessing history.

But no matter the circumstances, the record still counts.

With a 104-61 win over Pacific on Tuesday night, VanDerveer became Division I women’s basketball’s winningest head coach, passing the late Hall of Famer Pat Summitt with her 1,099th career victory.

“We were great friends; I learned a lot from coaching against Pat,” VanDerveer said Sunday night after notching her record-tying win against Cal. “...I coached a lot of Pat’s players internationally after they had graduated from Tennessee, or were playing at Tennessee, and I think the thing that I probably learned more than anything else was just how much her players loved playing for her. And as a coach, I think that’s all of our goals.”

VanDerveer’s coaching career began at Idaho, where she compiled a 42-14 record in two seasons. A five-year stint at Ohio State followed before she began at Stanford in 1985, which would be her first (and only) losing season. The Cardinal won national championships in 1990 and 1992; then, for the 1995-96 season, VanDerveer departed Stanford to coach the U.S. women’s national team leading up to the 1996 Olympics.

She’s coached everyone from WNBA greats Nneka Ogwumike, Nicole Powell and Jayne Appel-Marinelli at Stanford; to Hall of Famers Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie at the Olympics, a team that also featured now-fellow coaches Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Nikki McCray-Penson of Mississippi State; and hundreds more in between and since.

And if, as in Summitt’s case, your former players having good things to say about you is a hallmark of your success, VanDerveer’s prolific career doesn’t allow her to fall short there.

“Tara is just special,” UNLV head coach and former Stanford player Lindy La Rocque told The Next’s Jenn Hatfield. (La Rocque and UNLV recently acted as Stanford’s unofficial home base, as the Santa Clara County public health order bars the Cardinal from playing at home.) “She’s obviously an amazing coach, but at the end of the day, she’s just also such a great person.

“...Every day I think back to a different lesson that she’s still continuing to teach me, even though I’m not by her side every day. I’m truly just blessed and thankful for the relationship, and to be a small piece in the massive puzzle of people and players and coaches that put together Tara’s whole masterpiece.”

Tuesday night’s game itself ended up being a typical Stanford-dominated affair. After a relatively close first half that saw Pacific get within four points late in the second quarter, the Cardinal pulled away in the third and didn’t look back. All this was perhaps helped along by the fact that this was Pacific’s first game of the season — COVID-19 protocols kept the Tigers out for two weeks, then their first two games after unpausing were canceled.

But no matter the circumstances, the record still counts.

And VanDerveer would like nothing more than to share her accomplishment with as many people as possible.

“This might be a record that has Tara VanDerveer’s name next to it, but it is about the athletic directors that hired me and gave me a chance,” VanDerveer said Sunday. “...It’s been about great, great, great assistant coaches that have worked extremely hard for our program. And it’s about having great players. ... I love this game of basketball and I really, really, really love coaching young women, helping them get better.”