Former players on hand to honor Tara VanDerveer's 1,000th victory

STANFORD, Calif. -- Brooke Smith and Krista Rappahahn Birnie sat courtside Friday night, directly across the floor from the woman who recruited them and then shaped them as basketball players and young women, getting a little emotional.

"We were getting teary together, hearing the band playing and the people cheering," said Rappahahn Birnie, one of the best 3-point shooters in Stanford women's basketball history. "It's special to be a part of a night like this, because Tara so deserves it."

Tara VanDerveer joined an elite club in the annals of basketball Friday night, becoming the third coach in NCAA Division I college basketball history -- and just the second women's coach -- to win 1,000 career games with the Cardinal's 58-42 win over Southern California at Maples Pavilion.

As the final seconds ticked off toward history, the crowd stood and cheered, holding up signs that read "1,000." VanDerveer's seniors, Erica McCall, Karlie Samuelson and Bri Roberson, grabbed a Gatorade jug and made a run at their coach, who shook her head hoping to avoid a shower. It was full of confetti instead.

VanDerveer made her way to the sideline to hug her mother, Rita, who flew in from Colorado to be at the game. Then former Stanford star Ros Gold-Onwude (2005-10), a Pac-12 Network basketball analyst who called the game, handed VanDerveer the microphone.

"I never started coaching to try to win a 1,000 games," VanDerveer said. "I have more than a 1,000 memories as a coach. I'm looking for 1,001 Monday night."

Smith, who joined other former Stanford players in the locker room to celebrate with the team after the game, said she was emotional throughout the evening.

"It's amazing to get to see this continue year after year," said Smith, who played for VanDerveer from 2005 to 2007. "I mean, Jennifer Azzi just walked past us. This success over this period of time ... it speaks for itself."

Yes, Azzi, the star player who started it all for VanDerveer at Stanford, leading her program to its first national title in 1990, was in the house. So was Ruthie Bolton, who won an Olympic gold medal with Azzi and VanDerveer in 1996.

Sara James, who played guard at Stanford from 2011 to 2014, rushed in from her nursing shift at Stanford Hospital just in time for the celebration. She stood in the wings and watched a postgame tribute video that included Jayne Appel, Candice Wiggins, Jeanette Pohlen, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, as well as South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who played for VanDerveer on the 1996 Olympic team.

Bolton, who still lives in Sacramento after playing for years with the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, said she wouldn't have missed the opportunity to honor VanDerveer.

"There have been a lot of basketball games played, but not a lot of coaches who have won this many of them, and then to do it in the style she's done it, with such humility," Bolton said. "I am so thankful I had the opportunity to play for her. And I'm so happy for her."

Maples Pavilion was full of luminaries to celebrate VanDerveer, from Stanford football coach David Shaw, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NCAA champion volleyball coach John Dunning and members of the U.S. Olympic swim team who attend Stanford -- Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel and Lia Neal -- were part of a halftime ceremony to honor women and girls in sports.

But the biggest honor of the night was reserved for the head coach who put Stanford women's basketball -- and perhaps West Coast women's basketball -- on the map.

"She is in the pantheon at Stanford," Rice said. "You see her on campus and she's one of our great Stanford citizens. It's such an amazing achievement, what she's done for hundreds of young women, and she's done it in the most dignified and honorable way."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that VanDerveer has a unique place among the legendary coaches who have ever worked in this conference.

"She has a deep-rooted passion for what she does and her commitment to the kids she coaches, but she is also always thinking about the greater good," Scott said.

"I just think it's great for sports in general. It is not about gender. It is about celebrating greatness." Jennifer Azzi on Tara VanDerveer's 1,000th win

Scott said he and VanDerveer have had plenty of conversations about how to advance women's basketball in the Pac-12. Now that the conference is considered the nation's best -- four of the league's teams are ranked in the top 13 in the most recent AP Top 25 poll -- and many of the Pac-12 teams have made a run at Stanford's dominance, her advocacy hasn't waned, Scott said.

"She has been instrumental in making sure that the Pac-12 is getting the credit and the attention it deserves," he said. "She has been consistently open to new opportunities and new ideas."

USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke kept her team on the floor to watch part of the celebration, wanting her players to understand VanDerveer's contributions to the game. Cooper-Dyke understands them as well as anyone. She was a player at USC when VanDerveer started coaching at Stanford. And she was a professional player who had spent all of her career overseas when the 1996 Olympic team led to the formation of the WNBA.

Cooper-Dyke finished her career in the WNBA winning four titles with the Houston Comets in the league's first four seasons.

"Before the game, I thanked her for the opportunity to play in the WNBA," Cooper-Dyke said. "If it hadn't been for her, that opportunity would have passed me by."

Azzi, who said she believes VanDerveer is one of the greatest basketball coaches in the world, said what happened Friday night was a "rare thing."

"She is now part of such a small group of coaches. I just think it's great for sports, in general," Azzi said. "It is not about gender. It is about celebrating greatness."