Our Stories

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Ashley Adamson: Learning about Tara VanDerveer through the loving lens of her mother, Rita, was a gift

When we first found out Tara VanDerveer’s mom lived in Boulder and was a die-hard Colorado Buffaloes fan, it felt like a no-brainer for an Our Stories feature. But like many great stories, the one you end up telling is rarely the one you set out to share. Knowing that Tara’s 91-year old mother lives a stone’s throw from Folsom Field and has season tickets to nearly every Colorado sporting event pulled us in, but it was seeing a Hall of Famer through the eyes of a mother that truly captivated us and made this story special.

Practically everything has been written about Tara VanDerveer and her unprecedented career. That’s what happens when you’ve been inducted into nearly every Hall of Fame in existence, when you’ve been to 12 NCAA Final Fours, won two NCAA titles, 22 regular season Pac-12 titles and an Olympic Gold medal. Most of you reading this probably also know that Tara is one of three Division I basketball coaches ever to win 1,000 career games.

But did you know the four-time National Coach of the Year absolutely despised wearing dresses as a child? Or that she got into coaching because she couldn’t find a job after college and her parents told her if she didn’t help with her little sister’s basketball team she had to move out? Did you know she’s a gifted water skier? Or that she had a pet bunny who had to be given away because it bit someone at her birthday party? Or that — according to Rita — when Tara first learned to drive she almost drove into Niagara Falls? Please note: Tara’s recollection of that story is drastically different, but the point remains:

Getting to know a legend, typically described by her on-court accolades, through the loving lens of a mother’s eye is a gift.

And the two were incredibly gracious and giving with their time. Tara spent two hours — on a game day — going through pictures and old memorabilia with her mom. The Stanford coach hosted us during shoot-around that morning, and she wore a wireless microphone for us throughout the entire game that night. 

At the end of our 90-minute interview, I asked Rita for some advice on becoming a first-time mom to a daughter, as I’m expecting a girl this May. I wasn’t thinking the exchange would make it into the finished piece; it was simply a genuine question in the moment on what it took to raise five incredible children, including a Hall of Fame daughter. Her answer was as sweetly simple as it was perfect. 

“Just love her,” she told me. “The time goes by so fast that you really have to capture every moment.”

I’ll try to keep that wisdom in mind during those long sleepless nights ahead. And here’s to hoping one day I’m 1/8 of the Hall of Fame mom Rita VanDerveer is.

Ashley Adamson (@AdamsonAshleyis a Pac-12 Networks host and reporter. See more of Tara and Rita VanDerveer's story on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 6:15 p.m. PT/ 7:15 p.m. MT during the debut of "Our Stories" on Pac-12 Network.

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