Historic win creeps up on VanDerveer

Tara VanDerveer now has No. 900 under her belt, and the next question might be: How many more before she is done?

Sixth-ranked Stanford handed its Hall of Fame coach a huge milestone in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Wednesday afternoon, defeating Florida Gulf Coast 83-59.

VanDerveer. 60, is the fifth coach in women's basketball history to reach the 900-win mark, joining Pat Summitt (Tennessee), Sylvia Hatchell (North Carolina), C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Jody Conradt (Texas). She will likely pass all but Summitt by the end of the season. Hatchell sits at 908 wins (she is not currently coaching while undergoing treatment for leukemia) and Stringer has 905 wins. Conradt retired after her 900th victory.

Summitt is the gold standard, winning 1,098 games before stepping down in 2012.

VanDerveer would likely have to coach another five to six years to reach Summitt's record, which currently stands as the most wins for a coach in the history of college basketball.

Had VanDerveer not stepped away from her Stanford program in 1995-96 to coach the U.S. Olympic team to a 60-0 record and an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, she likely would already be women's basketball's second-winningest coach of all time.

"It goes fast," VanDerveer said after Wednesday's game. "I can remember my first game. I remember different dates and different places and obviously some really big games, but it goes really fast. I'm thankful to have coached in the places I've coached, for the assistants I've worked with, the athletic directors I've worked for and the outstanding players and fabulous fans. I'm very fortunate, I've lived a blessing life."

VanDerveer's formula has always stayed consistent through more than 30 years of coaching, which has included two national championships, 24 conference titles and 10 trips to the Final Four.

She is a basketball sponge with an open mind and a commitment to seeing her players execute disciplined and purposeful offense and strong scouting report defense. VanDerveer is as unfailingly prepared as any coach in the history of the game.

She believes her style is a reflection of her parents, who were both teachers.

"I think I knew from the beginning that coaching is really teaching," VanDerveer said. "You have 30 public exams a year. I am a student of the game. I know the more I learn, the more there is to learn. I keep studying players and games and try to learn from everyone I'm around.

"I just try to get better every day. Tomorrow, I hope I do a better job than today."

The Cardinal's milestone win was both convincing and low-profile, taking place in a gym in Mexico without a lot of fanfare in front of about two dozen fans in the stands.

But it was meaningful for her players, who handed their Hall of Fame coach the game ball when it was done.

"She dedicates her life to the game," said senior Chiney Ogwumike, who finished the game with 27 points and 13 rebounds for the 6-1 Cardinal.

"We played really well because we not only wanted to play well, but we wanted to play well for Tara so she'd have a good memory of the game," Ogwumike said. "She said in the locker room that anytime she'll think about her 900th win, she'll think about how well we played. Glad we made her proud."

Senior Mikaela Ruef, like Ogwumike, was on the roster when VanDerveer won her 800th game four years ago in San Francisco. She scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in win No. 900.

"It's a huge, huge amount, I can't even imagine," Ruef said. "She got her first win before either of us were born. It's an awesome accomplishment."

Stanford will return to Maples Pavilion for what will undoubtedly be a big home-court celebration after the finals break, matching up with No. 24 Gonzaga on Dec. 14.

"I'm not a bean counter," VanDerveer said. "It crept up on me. I don't even feel like I've been doing it that long. I'm doing something I love and I'm surrounded by people who make me look good."