Sports

Sign of the times: Career hoops win No. 800 for VanDerveer

 

Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer found herself surrounded by past accomplishments, present achievements and future possibilities on one glorious night in San Francisco.

VanDerveer was presented with her 800th career coaching victory by her current group of players in a 100-45 victory over host USF on Wednesday.

Afterward she shared a special moment with two of her first group of Stanford players, Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding, who are in their first year with the Lady Dons.

Cardinal senior Kayla Pedersen helped pave the way with game highs of 16 points and 20 rebounds. Her performance, after missing one game and not playing up to her usual standard in another, helped VanDerveer see the glow of another long run into the postseason.

Eighth-ranked Stanford (7-2) ended its longest losing streak -- at two games -- since losing three in a row Jan. 6-13, 2001.

The Cardinal puts another streak on the line Tuesday when No. 4 Xavier visits for a 1 p.m. tipoff. Stanford has won its last 50 home games, the second-longest streak in school history.

Azzi and Steding were members of Stanford's first NCAA championship team in 1990 and helped win 101 of the 648 games VanDerveer has won with the Cardinal.

"I didn't plan it this way. I didn't want it this way, but it was so special to be here with Jennifer and Katy," VanDerveer said. "They were part of a lot of wins."

Azzi and Steding presented VanDerveer with flowers and the game ball in a ceremony at midcourt afterward.

"Eight hundred is a lot of games," said VanDerveer, the sixth women's coach to win as many games. "It's a little ironic with Jennifer and Katy. It's apropos it's with them … I'm just a little bit blown away about Jennifer and Katy being here and the large number."

VanDerveer owns an 800-197 record in 32 seasons, 25 at Stanford. When it was over, Azzi hugged her former coach, and fans and players held up signs reading "Congratulations Tara."

"It's kind of bittersweet for me and for Katy," Azzi said. "I'm really excited for Tara tonight. She's the most brilliant mind in basketball. She had an impact on my life, not just as a coach but as a person. My career at Stanford is a lot of the reason I'm here. Giving her the ball was pretty incredible for us."

Azzi was considered the greatest women's player in Stanford history until she herself proclaimed Candice Wiggins the best ever. Azzi, drawn to Stanford from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, continues to be regarded as the player who helped VanDerveer put Stanford on the women's basketball landscape.

"The mold wasn't broken; more great players just came along," VanDerveer said of the winning tradition Azzi and Steding helped create. "I love it."

VanDerveer offered to talk to the Dons after the game, and Azzi appreciated the gesture on the special night.

"It's pretty awesome to play for a coach who has 800 wins under her belt," Pedersen said. "She's pretty humble about it, but it's an incredible feat."

Said Nnemkadi Ogwumike: "I'm really glad to be part of the history."

Ogwumike, Joslyn Tinkle and Sara James each scored 14 points and every Cardinal who played scored at least three points.

Stanford was without the services of starting freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike, who turned her left ankle during the morning shootaround.

USF was within 23-21 with 8:16 left in the first half when Stanford went into hyper warp speed and scored the next 25 points to take a 48-21 edge into halftime.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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