PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For C. Vivian Stringer, it was all about taking care of business as she stoically walked onto the floor of the Rutgers Athletic Center for the Scarlet Knights' game Tuesday night against Central Connecticut.
For the fans, ex-players and former staffers in the stands wearing C. Vivian Stringer T-shirts, bearing handmade signs and carrying bigger-than-life pictures of the Rutgers coach, it was all about being a witness to history.
In the days leading up to the game, Stringer said she wanted, simply, to get the milestone win over with, as she was worried about the pressures on her players. The Scarlet Knights made sure that nobody had to sweat on the way to Stringer's 1,000th win as they easily handled the visiting Blue Devils 73-44.
Red-and-white confetti filled the Rutgers Athletic Center as the final horn sounded and Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" blared from the arena's speakers.
Stringer, covered in the small bits of paper, was mobbed by reporters at center court as fans held up CVS1K signs and began chanting "CVS, CVS ..."
"This was only done with the help of my family," an emotional Stringer told the crowd. "They lifted me up at times when I didn't think I could make it."
There have been many struggles for Stringer that range from the 1992 death of her husband during the same season she took Iowa to the Final Four, to the meningitis that struck her daughter, Nina, as a child and left her in need of care 24 hours a day, and her own battle with breast cancer.
Still, Stringer has been able to persevere to win 1,000 games, joining an exclusive club of Division I women's college basketball coaches that includes the late Pat Summitt (Tennessee), Tara VanDerveer (Stanford), Geno Auriemma (Connecticut) and Sylvia Hatchell (North Carolina). Barbara Stevens also accomplished the feat at Division II Bentley.
Only Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has reached 1,000 wins on the men's side.
Shortly after her players dumped a bucket of confetti onto her head, Stringer was led to a director's chair underneath one of the baskets where she was able to see video tributes from the "Inside the NBA" crew, Kobe Bryant, David Stern, Billie Jean King, Whoopi Goldberg and all the living Division I coaches in the 1,000-win club.
"It reminded me of something my father used to say," Stringer said. "'Don't give me flowers when I'm gone. Show me that you appreciate me while I'm still here.' That's how I felt watching that." One of the final videos was of her coaching mentor, John Chaney, who was the men's coach at Cheyney State when Stringer was building a national power with the women's program.
"I just want you to know how much I cared," Chaney said. "You are one of the greatest coaches. Congratulations on such a wonderful night."
The supporters who showed up at the Rutgers Athletic Center to witness Stringer becoming the first African-American college coach to reach 1,000 wins included New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and dozens of former players and staffers from Cheyney, Iowa and Rutgers who have remained closely connected to the Hall of Fame coach over the course of her 47-year career.
Even South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who was once recruited by Stringer, flew up for the game, bringing her entire coaching staff to pay tribute. In a letter to Stringer that Staley wrote for The Undefeated, the South Carolina coach credited her mentor for "being respectful of the game and having great character when it comes to coaching young women."
Stringer has been a winner at every stop on an incredible coaching journey.
At tiny Cheyney State outside of Philadelphia, she won 251 games in 12 seasons, leading the nation's very first historically black college to the championship game of the very first NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament in 1982.
At Iowa, Stringer won 269 games in 12 seasons, leading the Hawkeyes to eight NCAA tournament appearances and one trip to the Final Four.
With Tuesday's win, Stringer now has 480 wins in her 18 years at Rutgers, a school she has led to 14 NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the Final Four.
"I'm happy I made a difference," Stringer said, "and that people recognized that."