Tara VanDerveer has long been considered one of the best coaches of all-time. On Tuesday night, she made her case as the greatest ever.
VanDerveer earned her 1,099th career win, passing legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for the most in women’s college basketball history, as top-ranked Stanford beat Pacific 104-61 in Stockton.
“I really hope Pat Summitt is looking down and saying, ‘Good job, Tara, keep it going,’” VanDerveer told the ESPN2 television broadcast. “I loved coaching against Pat and we miss her. This is a wonderful game and I’m really, really fortunate to be a part of it.”
It’s just the most recent in a seemingly endless list of accomplishments for VanDerveer. The four-time national coach of the year is now in her 42nd season as a head coach, including the last 35 years at Stanford. She has led the Cardinal to 22 conference titles, 12 Final Fours, and two national championships, compiling a ridiculous 947-202 record in Palo Alto and 1,099-253 overall.
“It is just so wonderful,” VanDerveer said. “So many people have reached out to me. Just to connect with people during this time that you feel so isolated, it’s really meant a lot to me.”
VanDerveer’s head coaching career began in 1978 at the University of Idaho. She spent two years there before taking over at Ohio State, where she coached for five seasons.
VanDerveer, 67, was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Her teams have won at least 20 games in 35 of her 41 seasons and this year will almost certainly make it 36 of 42.
VanDerveer has also left her mark on the national women’s basketball team, coaching the United States to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“I do think back about all the different players I’ve coached,” she said. “I just want to thank every player I’ve coached, every administrator I’ve worked for, assistant coaches that I’ve worked with, trainers, everyone that has made this just a great ride.”
Throughout her career, VanDerveer has garnered respect and admiration from every corner of the basketball world, including Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
“I’ve gotten to know her a little bit over the years and I’ve always loved her sort of understated presence,” Kerr said. “She’s understated but she’s clearly in charge. You’re in the room with her, you feel like, ‘Okay, yeah, she’s the boss.’ But she doesn’t need to yell and scream. It’s more just poise and knowledge, and the players feel that. And then she just keeps churning out these great teams year after year. She’s pretty remarkable.”
VanDerveer isn’t slowing down either. This year’s Stanford team might be her most talented ever, currently ranked number one in the country with a 5-0 record. The Cardinal are favored to win yet another Pac-12 title and perhaps their third national championship.
In Tuesday’s win, junior guard Lexie Hull led six Stanford players in double figures with 17 points. Sophomore Francesca Belibi added 15 points and eight rebounds, as the Cardinal topped 100 points for the third time this season.
“I’m just really, really excited for Tara,” said fifth-year senior Anna Wilson, who scored 14 points in Tuesday’s win. “Obviously, it’s an incredible accomplishment and she’s in incredible company. She’s been great leading the way for our team and I’ve enjoyed every moment of being at Stanford.”
Even after this historic accomplishment, VanDerveer wants to make sure she remains humble and dedicated to a bigger cause, announcing that she will donate ten dollars for every win, a total of $10,090, to her local food bank.
“We’re playing games and we know people are really suffering,” she said. “They don’t have jobs, their unemployment is running out, they’re hungry. I’m so thankful for my job and my opportunity that I just want to make sure I’m giving back.”
VanDerveer now trails just Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who leads all men and women’s coaches with 1,159 career victories. VanDerveer will take aim at win number 1,100 on Saturday as Stanford heads to Los Angeles to take on USC.