Tara VanDerveer sets record for most wins in NCAA hoops history

STANFORD, Calif. — Step aside, Coach K. Stanford‘s Tara VanDerveer is the new winningest basketball coach in NCAA history.

The Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Oregon State 65-56 at Maples Pavilion Sunday to give VanDerveer her 1,203rd career victory, passing former Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I’m very appreciative of all the great players I’ve coached and the great places I’ve been and the attention this brought to women’s basketball,” VanDerveer said. “I’m not always really comfortable in the limelight, but I understand that that kind of goes with the job.”

Krzyzewski, who held the record since 2019, issued a statement congratulating VanDerveer after the game.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Tara VanDerveer, who is already one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of basketball. This is yet another milestone to add to an amazing legacy,” Krzyzewski said. “More important than all the astounding numbers and career accomplishments, she’s positively impacted countless lives as a coach and a mentor. Tara remains a true guardian of our sport.”

Playing without star forward Cameron Brink, who suffered a knee injury in a win against Oregon on Friday, the Cardinal (17-2, 6-1 Pac-12) put aside a slow start to ensure VanDerveer would break the record in front of a home crowd.

“I told our team, I said, ‘This is what feels like winning a national championship,'” VanDerveer said. “You’re just so excited and you’re so happy. I would like to build on this and get better.”

Junior Kiki Iriafen had a dominant performance for the Cardinal, finishing with a career-high 36 points and 12 rebounds, while Talana Lepolo added 14 points.

Lepolo said there were some nerves playing in front a packed gym and a sense of responsibility to win to allow their coach to be honored at home with two road games ahead.

Roughly 30 of VanDerveer’s former players — including Jayne Appel, Jennifer Azzi, Ros Gold-Onwude and Chiney Ogwumike — were among the 7,022 fans in attendance to celebrate the achievement. Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was also on hand.

After falling behind 29-28 early in the third quarter, Stanford closed the quarter on a 22-14 run to take control going into the fourth. Oregon State (15-3, 4-3) didn’t seriously threaten the rest of the way.

Krzyzewski was one of several dignitaries connected to Stanford or the sport of basketball who spoke in a video presentation to congratulate VanDerveer after the game. Others who spoke included former tennis player Billie Jean King, South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, longtime WNBA star Lisa Leslie, Ogwumike and Azzi.

VanDerveer, 70, is in her 38th season at Stanford after previous stints as the head coach at Idaho (1978-80) and Ohio State (1980-1985). The five-time national coach of the year has led Stanford to three national titles (1990, 1992, 2021), 14 Final Fours, 25 Pac-12 regular-season titles and 34 trips to the NCAA tournament.

A 2011 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, VanDerveer has accumulated more wins than 355 of the 360 NCAA Division I women’s programs. In 1996, VanDerveer took a year off from coaching at Stanford to lead the U.S. women’s national team to a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, which helped paved the way for the launch of the WNBA in 1997.

On Saturday night, VanDerveer was discussing the wins record with former Stanford men’s coach Mike Montgomery — who spent 17 years on the Farm and 14 others seasons as a NCAA head coach at Montana and Cal — and the magnitude of the wins record really set in.

“[Montgomery] told me — I was watching the men’s game — and he said, ‘I’d have to coach 20 more years and win 25 games a year to reach [1,203],'” she said. “And I’m like, wow. It’s a big number.”

For VanDerveer, her longevity is a tribute to the joy coaching brings her.

“I like to say that I’ve never felt that coaching basketball was a j-o-b, job,” she said. “I can’t wait to come into the gym. I love coming to practice, love coming to the games and it’s fun. I get to wear sneakers to practice and the games, and all of you, our fans, are so fantastic.”

She has coached two Naismith Player of the Year winners, 36 first-team All-Americans and 19 Pac-12 Players of the Year, while nearly 40 of her players went to play for USA Basketball.

It remains to seen how long VanDerveer will hold the record. UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma, 69, the third-winningest NCAA basketball coach, trails her by seven wins (1,196). Whoever ends up with the record will likely come down to which of the two keeps coaching longer.

“I don’t see Tara retiring any time soon,” Azzi said.

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