Home Sports Key milestones of Tara VanDerveer’s 45-year college coaching career

Key milestones of Tara VanDerveer’s 45-year college coaching career

Key milestones of Tara VanDerveer’s 45-year college coaching career


The all-time winningest coach in NCAA history, who used to consider calling it a career at the end of every season, finally did just that. After 45 seasons as a head coach, 38 of them at Stanford, Tara VanDerveer retired on Tuesday.

During her career, she went to the NCAA tournament 38 times — all but two of them with the Cardinal — 14 Final Fours and won three national championships. She holds the record for most wins in college basketball — men’s and women’s — across all divisions. She coached the U.S. national women’s team, which included the likes of Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley, to a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Overall, VanDerveer had a winning percentage of .818.

VanDerveer’s legacy in the sport will be long lasting. VanDerveer was a coach’s coach. She took time to mentor other coaches, exchanging game film with some or going to the visiting locker room to offer encouraging words and insight.

She was instrumental in building Stanford into a powerhouse season after season and building the Pac-12 into the country’s most dominant conference this past season.

With the Hall of Fame coach’s career ending, a look back at some of VanDerveer’s milestones:

1978: VanDerveer recorded the first of her 1,216 wins as a head coach. Her Division II Idaho team defeated Northern Montana College in overtime in the 1978-79 season opener.

1980: VanDerveer returned to Ohio State, where she was assistant coach for two years while achieving her masters in sports administration, as head coach. She stayed for five seasons, growing the program to national prominence and leading the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament twice. She also won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors twice.

1985: Ohio State earned a 2-seed and made it to the Elite Eight in VanDerveer’s first NCAA tournament appearance as a coach. She left the Buckeyes the same year to take over a Stanford program that was coming off two losing seasons.

1988: In her third season in Palo Alto, VanDerveer guided the Cardinal to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1982. The Cardinal would earn an appearance in every subsequent NCAA tournament (excluding the 2020 tournament, which was canceled due to COVID-19).

1990: In VanDerveer’s fifth year at Stanford, the Cardinal defeated Auburn 76-60 to win their first NCAA title. It would be the first of VanDerveer’s three titles in Palo Alto.

1992: Two years after winning their first title, the Cardinal returned to the national championship game and defeated Western Kentucky 78-62. Not a ton was expected of this team, after losing three starters from the prior year’s team — including All-American Sonia Henning.

1995-96: VanDerveer took the season off at Stanford to lead the U.S. women’s national team at the Atlanta Olympics. The team defeated Brazil 111-87 to win the gold medal, which helped paved the way for the launch of the WNBA in 1997.

2002: VanDerveer was enshrined in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

2011: VanDerveer was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining a class that included Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin and then-NCAA all-time wins leader Herb Magee.

Dec. 15, 2020: VanDerveer passed legendary coach Pat Summitt to become the winningest coach in women’s college basketball with 1,098 career victories.

2021: Twenty-nine years after her last NCAA title, VanDerveer added her third championship. And it came under the most difficult of circumstances. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 tournament was played in front of few fans and in a bubble in the greater San Antonio area. But none of it slowed the Cardinal, who, as the No. 1 overall seed, defeated fellow Pac-12 team Arizona 54-53 in the title game at the Alamodome.

Jan. 21, 2024: With the 65-56 victory over Oregon State, VanDerveer passed former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to become the winningest coach in college basketball (1,203 career victories). In the arena to honor VanDerveer were roughly 30 of her former players, including Jayne Appel, Jennifer Azzi, Ros Gold-Onwude and Chiney Ogwumike.

April 9, 2024: Tara VanDerveer retired as the NCAA all-time leader in wins by a coach with 1,216. She won three titles (1990, 1992 and 2021) with Stanford during her 38-year tenure. VanDerveer finished her career with 100 NCAA tournament wins and is one of three coaches with 100-plus NCAA tournament wins, joining Geno Auriemma (136) and Pat Summitt (112).

ESPN Stats & Info and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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