C. Vivian Stringer hit the 1,000-victory mark on Tuesday. So what's next? At age 70, Stringer shows no signs of wanting to step away from her life's work of coaching women's basketball.
"I'm happy and grateful that I have the opportunity to continue to somehow shape the lives of these young women," Stringer said prior to Rutgers' 73-44 victory over Central Connecticut State on Tuesday in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 this season. Stringer signed a contract extension a year ago that extends her deal through the 2021 season.
"I've always had it in my mind that you have to demonstrate and earn respect," Stringer said, reflecting on her career. "I've spent a lot of time being around my colleagues. I was always so excited to go to a clinic. You don't sit back and let things happen. You grab ahold of it and make things happen."
The three other current Division I women's basketball coaches with 1,000 victories share the same competitive mindset. Stanford's Tara VanDerveer (1,038 victories), UConn's Geno Auriemma (1,028) and North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell (1,007) are all going strong. VanDerveer, 65, and Auriemma, 64, both have teams currently in the Associated Press top 10.
Hatchell, 66, missed a year on the sideline as she battled cancer in 2013-14. Now she's trying to return the Tar Heels to elite status after three consecutive losing seasons. Hatchell and Auriemma hit the 1,000-win mark on the same day last season, Dec. 19, 2017.
The other Division I women's coach who reached 1,000 victories is No. 1 on the list: The late Pat Summitt of Tennessee has 1,098. Barbara Stevens, 64, of Division II Bentley is also on the list at 1,013. On the men's side, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, 71, is tops among Division I coaches at 1,102.
Summitt died from the effects of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, in 2016 at the age of 64. Summitt and Stringer were close friends, and they met in the 2007 NCAA championship game, won by Tennessee over Rutgers.
VanDerveer spent two seasons at Idaho and five at Ohio State before going in 1985 to Stanford, where she has won two NCAA titles. Hatchell coached for 11 seasons at Francis Marion, where she won two national championships, before taking over in 1986 at North Carolina, where she has won one NCAA title. Auriemma became a head coach in 1985 at UConn, where he has won 11 NCAA titles.
Stringer started at Cheyney State in 1972, then went to Iowa in 1983 and Rutgers in 1995. She became the first Division I basketball coach for men or women to take three programs to the Final Four, and she has coached in two NCAA championship games.
Stringer and her fellow "1K" coaches have been at the forefront of the growth of women's college athletics and the success of USA Basketball. Several of their players have gone on to be standouts in the WNBA.
They coached long before cellphones, text messages and Instagram. They've had to adapt to how changes in technology have impacted everything from recruiting to how they analyze games to how they run their programs.
"I have seen it all," Stringer said, chuckling. "This game teaches you how to be humble, appreciative, respectful of others. I've been able to teach a lot of life's lessons. To not be disrespectful of the game and other people. To teach what it means to have everybody going in the same direction, and ultimately getting to that special spot, where you know that you're the best."
Can Rutgers get back to that level? The Scarlet Knights were 20-12 last season but did not make the NCAA tournament and opted not to play in the WNIT. Their most recent NCAA tournament appearance was in 2015, and they won the WNIT title in 2014. The last time Rutgers made it as far as the Sweet 16 was 2009.
This is Rutgers' fifth season in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights had a winning record the first year of play in the league, in 2014-15, but they haven't since.
"I know there's a real focus on the part of everyone. I see a sense of urgency," Stringer said of her 2018-19 team's mindset. But because they are still dealing with some injuries, she added, "We can't hurry things along."
Stringer said she is relieved to get past win No. 1,000. As thrilled as she was to celebrate with family and friends, including many of her former players, she is ready to put the trips down memory lane back on the shelf. That way she can keep the spotlight on her current team and what it needs to do for an NCAA tournament bid.
"Coach Stringer is that beacon of hope for all of us young -- or old -- African-American coaches who strive to sustain a certain level of success. ... reaching 1,000 victories for her just adds to the legacy that she has already given us and women's basketball in general." Dawn Staley on C. Vivian Stringer
But for one more moment, we must pause to marvel at what a grand historical feat it is to be in the game long enough to reach this milestone. Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw is the only other active Division I women's coach who is in striking distance of 1,000. The coach of the defending NCAA champions, McGraw turns 63 in December and currently has 890 victories -- 802 at Notre Dame and 88 at Lehigh.
Stringer said that even for as long as she has been at this, "When you really love something, you don't recognize time goes by."
But she is definitely recognized by all in college basketball for her impact on the game and, in particular, how she has inspired African-Americans, who've long been under-represented in the coaching ranks. For many years, Stringer and Kansas' Marian Washington were the most prominent black women coaching at the highest levels in college basketball, and they helped pave the way for others.
"Coach Stringer is that beacon of hope for all of us young -- or old -- African-American coaches who strive to sustain a certain level of success," said South Carolina's Dawn Staley, who led the Gamecocks to the 2017 NCAA title and was recruited as a high school player by Stringer before picking Virginia. "Usually people are defined by the amount of victories they have, but reaching 1,000 victories for her just adds to the legacy that she has already given us and women's basketball in general."