Tara VanDerveer is getting way into the Warriors, catching as many games as she can on television that don’t conflict with her own busy basketball schedule.
The Hall of Fame Stanford coach watched the NBA champions practice on campus recently, and she’s not the only one taking advantage of having the title team nearby in the Bay Area.
California coach Lindsay Gottlieb recently took her staff on a short road trip from Berkeley to downtown Oakland to see MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors in preseason workout mode. Second-year Warriors coach Steve Kerr is embracing being an example for any coach who wants to get better: from the men’s and women’s college game to the WNBA or even high school. The NFL’s Raiders even sent their video folks over to learn from the Warriors. Stanford football coach David Shaw spent a day with Curry, tapping into his mind.
“Watching Steph’s shot workout after practice felt like watching Picasso work,” Gottlieb said.
The Warriors held a shootaround at Maples Pavilion on the Stanford campus in early October before a preseason game in San Jose, while VanDerveer assistant Kate Paye attended another practice. And when The Warriors were on the road in San Diego, VanDerveer’s sister and UCSD women’s coach, Heidi VanDerveer, hit a practice.
A day ahead of the Warriors’ season opener, coaches from California’s Central Valley visited practice. New York Liberty guard and former Cal star Brittany Boyd attended a workout.
“It goes back to, men’s team or women’s team, basketball’s basketball and we’re all trying to improve,” said Warriors assistant Jarron Collins, a former Stanford star who played 10 seasons in the NBA. “There’s this synergy of just talking shop. We’ve had a level of success, obviously, and you just want to borrow from those that have achieved a certain level. Our practices are very open to coaches who want to come and watch and observe. It’s pretty cool for us getting to interact with Coach VanDerveer.”
Stanford is the defending Pac-12 tournament champion after finishing runner-up to Oregon State for the regular-season crown, and the Cardinal aren’t picked to win the conference this season for the first time in 16 years.
Not that VanDerveer is ever overly concerned by that kind of stuff in October as she begins her 30th season on The Farm — she just cares that her team is clicking come March. And she’s always looking to learn something new even after decades of success and 953 career wins.
VanDerveer asks former Stanford guard and now-Warriors sideline reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude of her observations on what the Warriors are doing.
“I can’t tell you how many I kids I meet, they’re like, ‘Oh, I love Stephen Curry,’ “ Gold-Onwude said. “But they’re all doing his ball-handling drill. They came to practice at the gym so that was really coming full circle for not just Tara’s fascination but the players’, too.”
When Cal’s coaches sat in the balcony above the court for practice, Kerr made a point to say hello. One thing Gottlieb has noticed is how the Warriors have so many options with swingmen who can be multiple threats depending if Golden State goes small or uses a bigger lineup.
Her Cal team has that look this season, with several players who don’t fit one traditional spot on the court. Freshman Kristine Anigwe dunked the other day in practice.
“What I liked about watching them is, in a lot of ways, they sort of embody this position-less game moving forward,” Gottlieb said. “Just having the Warriors in our backyard and having them be so open has been really helpful. The first thing is it speaks to Steve Kerr and his leadership style and how open he is. Both of his kids are at Cal now, so he called and said come on over.
“The interesting thing is we had a conversation and we’re 10 minutes into it and he was asking about our players, who we’re running at the point and what we’re going to run. I’m like, ‘Wait, you’re coaching the Warriors.’”
Leading up to last season, VanDerveer leaned on former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni along with Milwaukee Bucks assistant Joe Prunty, and Jenny Boucek of the Seattle Storm and sought their guidance in developing a more guard-oriented game while moving away from her tried-and-true triangle scheme given her personnel.
“Old dog’s got to learn new tricks,” VanDerveer said then.
“Tara’s a great example and I like to follow that, if you’re a basketball coach, you have to keep learning and studying,” Gottlieb said.
For VanDerveer, this season will be back to some elements of the triangle offense and high-low action – with an up-tempo, running team much like the Warriors.
“Just watching how they play so many people, up tempo, I think it was kind of like a little clinic happening every two or three nights on television for me, and it was fun to watch,” VanDerveer said. “I’m a huge Warrior fan.”