Skip to main content

Michelle Smith Women’s Basketball Feature: Top-Ten Tara VanDerveer Moments

Dec 15, 2020
Stanford Athletics
Tara By the Numbers
  • 1,098 wins
  • 2 NCAA Championships
  • 13 Final Fours
  • 33 NCAA Tournaments
  • 23 Pac-10/12 Championships
  • 13 Pac-10/12 Tournament titles
  • 4 National Coach of the Year Awards
  • 15-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year
  • 946 wins at Stanford
  • 35 20-win seasons
  • 31 First-Team All-Americans
  • 30 WNBA Players
  • 15 30-win seasons

Ten Seminal moments of Tara VanDerveer’s career

Tara VanDerveer’s stature in the game has never been in question. She is a Hall of Fame, one of the game's most respected and successful coaches. And now with a victory tonight against Pacific at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN2, she will be the winningest coach in the history of her sport, passing the late, legendary Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer joined Summitt Sunday night, reaching the 1,098 milestone at Cal, adding to some of the most meaningful moments in a legendary career.

Not every one of her coaching wins or moments over the course of a 40-year career in coaching is equal. We picked out the Top 10 seminal moments of VanDerveer’s career, the ones that have shaped her and her incredible legacy.

Top-10 Moments

Fall, 1986 -  Within months after taking the Stanford job, VanDerveer landed the player that would change everything - Jennifer Azzi out of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Azzi lived in Pat Summitt’s backyard, but thanks to nearly 20 recruiting trips by VanDerveer, the wily guard came west and initiated the change in the geographic balance of the women’s game for the next 30-plus years. VanDerveer has said that “Jennifer was for Stanford women’s basketball what Steph Curry is for the Warriors.” It was the start of something big.

April 1, 1990 - On a team led by Azzi, VanDerveer and the Cardinal won their first national title in, of all places, Knoxville, Tennessee, beating Auburn, 88-81. It was a roster littered with players that will forever be considered Stanford legends - Azzi, Sonja Henning, Katy Steding and Trisha Stevens.

April 5, 1992 - VanDerveer led the Cardinal to its second title in three seasons with a 78-62 win over Western Kentucky in Los Angeles. Azzi and Henning were gone, and now the Cardinal leaned on stars Molly Goodenbour, Val Whiting and Rachel Hemmer

August 5, 1996 - What happened in Atlanta that day will not go on VanDerveer’s collegiate win-loss ledger, but is no less relevant to her iconic career. That was the day that VanDerveer led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the Atlanta Games, capping a 18th-month run in which VanDerveer left her Stanford program to represent her country and mold the U.S. program into a powerhouse. The team went 60-0 by the time the gold medals were laid around their necks. The American Basketball League and the WNBA were launched in the months to follow and VanDerveer returned to Stanford to pick up where she left off.

March 28, 1997 - VanDerveer returned to Stanford after her Olympic experience with a stacked roster that included eventual National Player of the Year Kate Starbird, Jamila Wideman, Olympia Scott, Heather Owen, Vanessa Nygaard and All-American Kristin Folkl. The Cardinal were national championship favorites heading to the Final Four in Cincinnati. But an 83-82 overtime loss to Old Dominion in the national semifinals turned out to be one of the most crushing defeats of her career.

March 14, 1998 - Oh, the Harvard game. At the end of the 1998 season, Stanford is bracketed as a No. 1 seed, matched up with 16th-seeded Harvard to open the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The day before the seeds are released, senior forward Nygaard goes down with an ACL injury in the conference finale against Oregon State. The day after the seeds are announced, Folkl goes down with an ACL injury. Harvard, widely regarded as better than its seed and led by the nation’s leading scorer in guard Alison Feaster, comes to Maples Pavilion and pins the shell-shocked Cardinal with an historic 71-67 loss, the first time a No. 1 seed has lost to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history.

March 30, 2008 - As four-time All-American Candice Wiggins dribbled off the final seconds against Maryland in the Regional Final in Spokane, VanDerveer’s glasses fogged up with her tears as the celebration began. Stanford hadn’t reached the Final Four since 1997, and they were finally back, 11 seasons later. The Cardinal would reach the national title game for the first time since 1992 that season, falling to Summitt’s Tennessee team in the championship. That would be Summitt’s last title and Stanford would go to five-straight Final Fours.

December 30, 2010 - Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut team came to an electric Maples Pavilion on a post-Christmas night with a 90-game winning streak that set the NCAA record and captivated the country. The vaunted Huskies, led by Maya Moore, left Maples Pavilion needing to start a new streak after Stanford won a 71-59 classic that included 31 points from Jeanette Pohlen.

March 30, 2010 - It might not have been one of the biggest wins of her career, but it might have been the most dramatic. Pohlen’s coast-to-coast basket with 4.4 seconds left on the clock lifted Stanford to the Final Four with a 55-53 win over Xavier in the regional final in Sacramento.

February 3, 2017 - VanDerveer, in her 32nd season as Stanford’s head coach, earned the 1,000th win of her career in a home victory over USC. At that moment she joined only Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski in the college basketball’s 1,000-win club. She joked at the time about wanting to get it over with. But there’s no chance of that now.