Tara VanDerveer of Stanford becomes winningest coach in women's college hoops

  • Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is the winningest all-time coach in women's basketball.

    Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is the winningest all-time coach in women's basketball. Associated Press

Updated 1/15/2021 4:57 PM

The fact there were no fans in the stands to witness Tara VanDerveer's big moment in history seems about right.

The Stanford women's basketball coach is one of the best in the history of the game, and now the winningest, too, and yet has managed to fly under the radar.


VanDerveer is soft-spoken, not flashy and almost downright shy around the spotlight.

She just loves basketball, her players, and doesn't seem to see the need to put herself out there much beyond that.

VanDerveer was suddenly very much the storyline last month when she became the winningest coach in Division I women's basketball history. Stanford defeated Pacific on the road in an empty gym due to COVID-19 restrictions to give VanDerveer, now in her 42nd year as a head coach, 1,099 career wins. That's one more than the late Pat Summitt of Tennessee.

Stanford is 11-0 and the No. 1-ranked team in the country, not that VanDerveer is promoting that.

"Basketball always has been and always will be a great team sport," VanDerveer said to reporters after the Pacific win. "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. Great, great, great assistant coaches that have worked extremely hard for our program. And it's about having great players.

"I've never been the best player of a team I've played on. I don't consider myself some John Wooden Jr. coach. But I'm determined, I work hard, and I love this game of basketball. And I really love coaching young women and helping them get better."

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With six more wins since the Pacific game, VanDerveer's 1,105 wins trails only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for most wins in Division I all time, men or women.

Krzyzewski has 1,137 wins in 46 seasons as a head coach.

Women's coach Geno Auriemma is very much a part of the conversation with 1,098 career wins in 36 seasons at Connecticut.

VanDerveer has never had the flash of an Auriemma, and might not have the fame of a Summitt or a Krzyzewski, but she has quietly earned the respect of her peers and women's basketball observers as belonging right alongside those great basketball minds.

Auriemma certainly appreciates and can personally relate to VanDerveer's consistency and longevity.

"I'm still here since 1985. Tara's still at Stanford," he told ESPN. "Does (success) have something to do with stability, being in one place for such a long time? And for Pat (Summitt) to be in one place a long time? I think that has something to do with it.


"Tara (has been) at a great school, a place that values women's athletics. The test of time, that's what seals your legacy. That's a lot of games to coach, much less win."

More COVID chaos: Teams across the country have had to postpone and reschedule games, sometimes at the drop of a hat, due to the pandemic.

Some programs have canceled their seasons. Virginia became the latest to do so Thursday after being on pause since mid-December. Duke, San Jose State and SMU have also canceled.

Tough sledding: The Big Ten is again proving to be one of the toughest conferences in women's college basketball.

The ranked teams are: Maryland (9), Michigan (13), Ohio State (15), Indiana (18) and Northwestern (22).

In the Big East, DePaul (19) has been in the Top 25 all year.

• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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