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Tara VanDerveer

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Tara VanDerveer

Tara VanDerveer
Sport(s) Women's Basketball
Current position
Title The Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball
Team Stanford
Conference Pac-12
Record 799–171 (.824)
Biographical details
Born (1953-06-25) June 25, 1953
Melrose, Massachusetts
Playing career
1971–1972 Albany
1972–1975 Indiana
Position(s) Guard
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1978–1980 Idaho
1980–1985 Ohio State
1985–1995 Stanford
1995–1996 U.S. Olympic Team
1996–present Stanford
Head coaching record
Overall 950–217 (.814)
Tournaments NCAA 54–22 (.711)
Big Ten 5–1 (.833)
Pac-12 22–2 (.917)
Accomplishments and honors
2 NCAA National Championships (1990, 1992)
4 Big Ten Conference Championships (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985)
18 Pac-12 Conference Championships (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
4 National Coach of the Year Awards (1988, 1989, 1990, 2011)
5 WBCA District/Region Coach of the Year Awards (1988, 1989, 1990, 2007, 2009)
2 Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards (1984, 1985)
10 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Awards (1989, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009)
5 Northern California Women's Intercollegiate Coach of the Year Awards (1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2011

Tara VanDerveer (born June 25, 1953)[1] has been the Stanford University women's basketball coach since 1985. She led the Stanford Cardinal to two NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championships: in 1990 and 1992.[2] She stepped away from the Stanford program for a year to serve as the U.S. national team head coach at the 1996 Olympic Games.[2] VanDerveer is the 1990 Naismith National Coach of the Year and a ten-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. She is also one of only six NCAA Women's Basketball coaches to win over 900 games.

Early years

VanDerveer was born on June 26, 1953,[3] to Dunbar and Rita VanDerveer, who named their first child "Tara" after the plantation in Gone with the Wind.[3] She was born in Melrose, Massachusetts,[3] a part of Greater Boston, but grew up in a small town in West Hill, near Schenectady, New York. Her parents were interested in a well-rounded education. Her father was studying for a doctorate at the school now known as the University at Albany.[4] He took the family to Chautauqua in the summer, where she immersed in arts as well as sports. At the age of ten, her parents bought her a flute, and arranged for lessons.[5] Two years later, one of the premier flutists in the world was staying in Chautauqua, and her father arranged for lessons with this distinguished teacher.[6] Although she learned to play, she did not enjoy the experience, and gave up the flute in ninth grade.[4] The love of music stayed with her though, and in later years she would take up the piano.[7][8]

There were no sports teams for girls when she was in high school, but she played a number of sports including basketball, in rec leagues and pickup. When she was younger, she played with both boys and girls. As she entered her high school years, the girls dropped out for other interests, so she was more apt to play with boys. To help make sure she would be chosen, she bought the best basketball she could afford, so if the boys wanted to play with her basketball, they would have to pick her.[9][10]

Her father wasn't completely supportive of her basketball interest, calling her in from the neighbor's basketball hoop, telling her, "Basketball won't take you anywhere. Come in and do your algebra." Tara was equally certain that algebra wasn't going to take her anywhere.[9][10] Her family moved to Niagara Falls in her sophomore year in high school.[9] The house in West Hill had a gravel driveway, making a basketball hoop impractical, but when her parents got her a hoop for Christmas when they were in Niagara Falls. By then, she thought she was too old for basketball,[9] although she would take it up again after she transferred to Buffalo Seminary, an all-girls college preparatory school, in her junior year. She ended up earning a place in the Buffalo Seminary's Athletic Hall of Fame.[11]


VanDerveer was determined to play in college. Her first choice was Mount Holyoke, but as one of five children, it wasn't financially possible, so she chose Albany where her father had studied for his doctorate. It wasn't a great team, but she knew the coach, which helped with the decision.[12] The team turned out not be challenging enough. Although naturally a guard, she jumped center, and lead the team in many categories, despite being the freshman on the team. She decided she needed a bigger challenge so she talked some of her friends into attending the AIAW National Championship, where she watched many teams, took notes, and decided where she wanted to go.[13] She chose Indiana where she transferred and spent three happy years, making the Dean's List each of the three years.[9][14] In her sophomore year, 1973 she helped the team reach the Final Four of the AIAW championship, losing in the semi-finals to Queens College.[15]

At that time, the men's basketball team at Indiana was coached by future Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight. While Knight was not a direct influence on VanDerveer's choice of school, he may have been had an indirect effect. The Indiana women's coach, Bea Gorton, patterned her style of play and practices after Knight, and it was the observation of the style of play at the AIAW event that persuaded her to choose Indiana. The effect would become more direct. Because Gorton designed her practices based upon what she observed from Knight, VanDerveer started attending Knight's practices to see what she would be doing later that day in practice. VanDerveer carried what she learned from Knight to her practices at Stanford.[13]

Coaching career

After completing college, VanDerveer took a year off, with a plan to return to law school. When she ran out of money she returned home. When her parents realized she was doing little beyond playing chess and sleeping, they urged her to help with her sister Marie's basketball team. Her sister was five years younger, and by the time Marie reached high school, the school had basketball teams for girls. The experience was exasperating in some ways, as the girls did not take it seriously, but VanDerveer realized coaching was something she loved.[16]

VanDerveer sent out resumes to twenty schools, looking for a graduate assistant job, which is an unpaid position. She only got two responses, one of which was for Ohio State, where the athletic director had remembered her from Indiana. To prepare herself, she attended a coaching clinic taught by Knight. When she had attended his practices, she had stayed out of sight, but enrolled in a class, she followed her parents advice and sat up front. One of the coaches asked if she was lost. Knight embarrassed her with one of his questions, but she didn't stop attending, although she moved back a few rows. She was hired as an assistant coach to the varsity and the head coach of the JV.[17]

In her first year, she coached the JV team to an 8–0 season. That caught the attention of Marianne Stanley at Old Dominion, who offered her an assistant coaching position. VanDerveer wanted to finish her master's degree, so accepted a paid position at Ohio State, at a salary less than a quarter of the Old Dominion offer.[18][19]


After two years, in which she earned a master's degree in sports administration, she applied for the head coaching position at Idaho. In her interview, when asked what she was going to do to be successful, she responded "work". When they asked her to elaborate, she responded, "hard work". She got the job.[20] When she arrived at Idaho, the team had only one winning season in their first four years. Under VanDerveer, the team improved to 17–8 in the first year. The team won the first game of the season, beating the Northern Montana Skylights 80–78, which represented the first of VanDerveer's over 900 wins.[21] The following year, the team improved to 25–6, which earned the team an invitation to the AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament (the precursor to the NCAA National Championships).[22]

Ohio State

On February 3, 1985, Ohio State played Iowa. The Ohio State team was unbeaten in conference play, while Iowa had just a single loss. Iowa was coached by future Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer. The game was at Carver-Hawkeye Arena which had 15,500 seats, over 20,000 showed up. They had to close the doors and turn away many fans, but the turnstiles recorded 22,157.[23] a record number of fans to watch a women's basketball game at the time. Fans sat in the aisles, and the fire marshal sent a letter of reprimand to Christine Grant, who was then the director of women's athletics at Iowa. The letter still hangs prominently on Grant's wall. Ohio State won the game 56–47, but it is the attendance record that the two coaches remember.[24][25][26][27]


Stanford Cardinal team with National Championship Trophy

By 1985, VanDerveer had developed Ohio State into a nationally ranked team, breaking into the Top 20 in 1984, and reaching number 7 in the final rankings of 1985.[28] Their success in 1985 earned a two seed in the 1985 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament. They made it to the Elite Eight, but lost by four points to eventual national champion Old Dominion. While Stanford would become one of the nation's powerhouses in women's basketball, in 1985 it was coming off a 9–19 year following a 5–23 year, with only 300 fans a game. Despite this challenge, Andy Geiger convinced VanDerveer to come to Stanford to become the head coach.[29][30][31]

VanDerveer's first year with Stanford was a step backward. After four consecutive 20+ win seasons, the Cardinal finished under .500 in her first year, with a 13–15 record, and barely improved that the following year, reaching 14–14. By her third year, when she was playing her own recruits, and the team was now following her coaching philosophy, the record jumped to 27–5. Stanford did not earn a bid to the NCAA tournament in either of her first two years, and had not attended since 1982, but earned a bid in 1988, reaching the Sweet Sixteen, and has earned an invitation to the tournament in every subsequent year.

Another milestone was reached in the following year, when Stanford won the Pac-10 regular season, the first (of many) conference championships. They earned a two seed in the NCAA tournament, and played to their seed, losing to Louisiana Tech in the Midwest Regional Final. The pieces came together in 1990, with one key being Jennifer Azzi. The 1990 Final Four would be held in Knoxville, Tennessee. Azzi was from Oak Ridge, not far from Knoxville. VanDerveer had traveled to Knoxville in 1985, to try to persuade this potential star to play for Stanford. Azzi made the decision to go to Stanford, and now, four years later, brought the team to her parents house after beating Arkansas in the West Regional, reaching their first Final Four and a trip to Knoxville.[32]

Stanford faced Virginia in the semi-final, a team which was competing in their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, and had reached the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight in each of the last three years. Stanford beat Virginia 75–66 to advance to the National Championship game. The championship game pitted Stanford against Auburn, who had finished as runner-up in each of the last two Tournaments. Auburn opened up an early lead, but Azzi helped bring the team back to a tie score by halftime, and lead a run in the second half that would earn the Most Outstanding player award for Azzi, and the first National Championship for VanDerveer and Stanford.[32]


Although the USA Basketball women's national team had considerable success in the 1980s—winning the 1984 Olympics, the 1986 World Championship, the 1988 Olympics, and the 1990 World Championship—there were signs of concern. The USA women's Pan American team, while not formally the national team, has, since the mid-70's, included many of the same players as the national team. The Pan Am team in 1991 would finish third, signaling a potential end to Team USA's past dominance.[33] The national team finished third at the 1992 Olympics, and third again in the 1994 World Championship. The 1995 Pan Am Games were cancelled, so the national team players did not have a win after the 1992 Olympics.[34]

The USA Basketball organization, with input from VanDerveer, decided to depart from the usual strategy to form a team a few weeks before the event, which severely limited the practice time. Instead, they decided to form a full-time national team to stay together for a year, preparing to the 1996 Olympics. VanDerveer was chosen as head coach, but was expected to take a one-year sabbatical from her head coaching position at Stanford.[35]

The selection of VanDerveer was not surprising. The USA Basketball organization typically selects coaches for some of the junior teams, to assess who will be most qualified to lead the National Team at the Olympics. This was no exception. VanDerveer had worked with USA Basketball teams in 1986 and 1990,[36] and served as the head coach of the team representing the USA at the 1991 World University Games. That team went 8–0 and won the gold medal in Sheffield, England.[37] Two years later, she coached the team in the World Championship qualifying event.[38] She continued at the coach of the National team at the 1994 World Championships in Sydney, where the USA team won the bronze medal.[39] Two months later, VanDerveer coached the USA Goodwill Games team to a 4–0 record and a gold medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games in Saint Petersburg.[40] So when it was time to select the Olympic coach, VanDerveer had coached several USA Basketball teams, including the full national team.

Prior to 1996, the head coach had much input into the team selection. While the USA Basketball organization selected the pool of potential players, the head coach chose the final team. That changed in 1996, when USA Basketball decided to take over the selection role. The initial selection was of 11 players, with plans to add a 12th player later, which would allow the organization to determine what was most needed. The lack of input lead to some differences of opinions, as VanDerveer was concerned about teams like Amy Tucker, who was taking over as interim head coach (along with Marianne Stanley), Tucker reminded her that she had committed to coach whomever was selected, and VanDerveer kept commitments.[41]

Although Team USA would win all eight games in the 1996 Olympics, with the closest game being a 15-point victory over Japan, VanDerveer was not certain of victory, even as the team was en route to a 52–0 pre-Olympic record against college and national teams. After beating the Cuban national team on May 26, 1996, in Townsville, Australia, the team record reached 44–0. In their next game against the Ukraine national team, played in Adelaide on May 14, the USA team won again, but VanDerveer was not happy. Ukraine, at full strength, was not the best team in the world, and was not seen to be as strong as Russia or Brazil. Moreover, Ukraine was expected to add better players before the Olympics, yet the USA team won by only 11 points, 62–51.[42] VanDerveer worried,[43]

There's no way we can play like this and win a gold medal

A few days later, Team USA was down by 12 points at the half, but VanDerveer turned it into a positive opportunity. It was only an exhibition game, but she used it as a chance to show how the team should respond if down early in an Olympic game. The USA team went on to win that game by seven points.[44]

The opening game of the Olympics was against Cuba. Although the USA had played Cuba several times during their exhibition tour, and won handily, none of those games counted. A loss in the preliminary round wouldn't eliminate the team form medal contention, but a second loss would, so there was additional pressure. The USA team was playing in front of a home crowd, and played tight in the beginning, while Cuba hit six of their first eight shots to take a 14–7 lead. The team settled down, helped by a spark from the reserves, and went on to win 101–84.[45] The second game was against Ukraine, another team they had played in exhibition, but a team that had done well against the USA, worrying VanDerveer. This time, the result would not be so close, and the USA team won their second game 98–65.[46]

The third game was against Zaire. While the first two games were in the compact [47] The next game was against Australia, one of the stronger teams in the field. The game was the first game played by Team USA after the bombing incident which left the team with little sleep. The attendance set a new record, with 33,952 spectators. The game was close for much of the game, with no team leading by more than six points until late in the second half, when Team USA extended the margin and won 96–79.[48] The next game was against Japan. With no Japanese player over six feet tall (1.83 m), Team USA had a height advantage. The USA exploited the advantage, and opened up a 28-point lead, but Japan fought back with three-point shooting and cut the lead to 13 at one point. The final margin was 15 points, the closest game to that point.[49]

VanDerveer's Olympic team was considered one of the best ever assembled, and complied an 60–0 record over the course of the year, culminating in a gold medal at the Olympics in Atlanta.[2][8]

USA basketball

VanDerveer was the head coach of the team representing the USA at the World University Games held in Sheffield, England in July 1991. The USA team started out with a very strong offense, scoring over 100 points in each of the first four games. The fourth game was against the USSR, a team often challenging the USA for the top spot, but the USA won 106–80 this time. The team fell short of 100 points in the game against Canada, but still won by 18 points. In the quarterfinal game, the USA won easily against Romania 135–53, with Ruthie Bolton scoring 40 points. The game against China was more of a challenge. The USA team shot poorly, hitting only 36% of their shots, but the defense held China to 35% shooting, and won a three-point game, 79–76. The gold medal match was against Spain, but the USA had a 13-point lead at halftime and won 88–62. Bolton was the highest scorer for the USA team with 14 points per game, but Lisa Leslie and Carolyn Jones were close behind with 13 points per game.[37]

Coaching tree

Eighteen of VanDerveer's players and assistant coaches have gone on to pursue their careers in coaching and basketball management:
Name Current position Location Relationship to VanDerveer Years
Azzi, JenniferJennifer Azzi Head Coach University of San Francisco Player 1987-1990
Bodensteiner, ClareClare Bodensteiner Assistant Coach Loyola University Chicago Player 2002-2006
King Borchardt, SusanSusan King Borchardt Sports Performance Coach Stanford University Player 2000-2005
Brown, ReneéReneé Brown Chief of Basketball Operations & Player Relations WNBA Assistant Coach 1989-1990
Burns, BethBeth Burns Head Coach San Diego State University Strength/Conditioning Coach 2004-2005
Carey, JamieJamie Carey Women’s National Team Assistant Director USA Basketball Player 1999-2001
Daugherty, JuneJune Daugherty Head Coach Washington State University Assistant Coach 1985-1989
Flores, MilenaMilena Flores Assistant Coach Princeton University Player 1996-2000
Goodenbour, MollyMolly Goodenbour Head Coach Cal State Dominguez Hills Player 1989-1993
Jackson, TiaTia Jackson Assistant Coach Rutgers University Assistant Coach 1999-2000
Kelsey, BobbieBobbie Kelsey Head Coach University of Wisconsin–Madison Player & Assistant Coach 1992-1996, 2007-2011
Middleton, KarenKaren Middleton Head Coach Western Carolina University Assistant Coach 1997-2007
Paye, KateKate Paye Assistant Coach Stanford University Player 1991-1995
Julie Rousseau Head Coach Pepperdine University Assistant Coach 2000-2004
Smith, CharminCharmin Smith Associate Head Coach University of California, Berkeley Player & Assistant Coach 1994-1997, 2004-2007
Steding, KatyKaty Steding Assistant Coach University of California, Berkeley Player 1987-1990
Tucker, AmyAmy Tucker Associate Head Coach Stanford University Player (at Ohio State) 1978-1982
Turner Thorne, CharliCharli Turner Thorne Head Coach Arizona State University Player 1985-1988

Head coaching record

Sources:Idaho,[22] Ohio State,[50] Big Ten,[51] Stanford[52][53]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Idaho (NW Empire League (1979–80 only)) (1978–1980)
1978–79 Idaho 17–8
1979–80 Idaho 25–6 10–2 AIAW First Round
Idaho: 42–14 (.750) 10–2 (.833)
Ohio State (Big Ten Conference) (1980–1985)
1980–81 Ohio State 17–15
1981–82 Ohio State 20–7 3–0 1st NCAA First Round
1982–83 Ohio State 23–5 15–3 T-1st
1983–84 Ohio State 22–7 17–1 1st NCAA First Round
1984–85 Ohio State 28–3 18–0 1st NCAA Elite 8
Ohio State: 110–37 (.748) 53–4 (.930)
Stanford (Pac-West/Pac-10/Pac-12) (1985–present)
1985–86 Stanford 13–15 1–7 5th
1986–87 Stanford 14–14 8–10 T-6th
1987–88 Stanford 27–5 14–4 3rd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1988–89 Stanford 28–3 18–0 1st NCAA Elite 8
1989–90 Stanford 32–1 17–1 T-1st NCAA Champions
1990–91 Stanford 26–6 16–2 1st NCAA Final Four
1991–92 Stanford 30–3 15–3 1st NCAA Champions
1992–93 Stanford 26–6 15–3 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1993–94 Stanford 25–6 15–3 2nd NCAA Elite 8
1994–95 Stanford 30–3 17–1 1st NCAA Final Four
1995–96 U.S. National Team
and U.S. Olympic Team
1996–97 Stanford 34–2 18–0 1st NCAA Final Four
1997–98 Stanford 21–6 17–1 1st NCAA First Round
1998–99 Stanford 18–12 14–4 3rd NCAA First Round
1999–00 Stanford 21–9 13–5 T-2nd NCAA Round of 32
2000–01 Stanford 19–11 12–6 T-1st NCAA Round of 32
2001–02 Stanford 32–3 18–0 1st NCAA Sweet 16
2002–03 Stanford 27–5 15–3 1st NCAA Round of 32
2003–04 Stanford 27–7 14–4 T-1st NCAA Elite 8
2004–05 Stanford 32–3 17–1 1st NCAA Elite 8
2005–06 Stanford 26–8 15–3 1st NCAA Elite 8
2006–07 Stanford 29–5 17–1 1st NCAA Round of 32
2007–08 Stanford 35–4 16–2 1st NCAA Runner-up
2008–09 Stanford 33–5 17–1 1st NCAA Final Four
2009–10 Stanford 36–2 18–0 1st NCAA Runner-up
2010–11 Stanford 33–3 18–0 1st NCAA Final Four
2011–12 Stanford 35–2 18–0 1st NCAA Final Four
2012–13 Stanford 33-3 17-1 T-1st NCAA Sweet 16
2013–14 Stanford 33-4 17-1 1st NCAA Final Four
2014–15 Stanford 26-10 13-5 T-3rd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
Stanford: 801–166 (.828) 440–72 (.859)
Total: 953–217 (.815)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Awards and honors


VanDerveer is also an avid piano player.[7] Her sister Heidi VanDerveer, who coached for several years with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, the Seattle Storm, and Occidental College in Los Angeles,[63] is now the head coach at UC San Diego.[64]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c Porter, p. 489
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ VanDerveer, p. 29
  6. ^ VanDerveer, p. 30
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ a b c d e
  10. ^ a b VanDerveer, p. 32
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b Lannin, p. 79
  14. ^ a b c d e f Skaine, p. 152
  15. ^
  16. ^ VanDerveer, p. 96
  17. ^ VanDerveer, p. 97
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ VanDerveer, p. 99
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ VanDerveer, p. 100
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ VanDerveer, p. 11
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ VanDerveer, p. 23
  42. ^
  43. ^ VanDerveer, p. 200
  44. ^ VanDerveer, p. 206
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ a b
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^


External links

  • Stanford University Women's Basketball
  • Profile
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