Stanford Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, the all-time leader in women's basketball victories at 1,186, said Friday she is thankful the school will be joining the ACC in 2024-2025.
"This has been hard, really tough to see," VanDerveer said of the breakup of the Pac-12. "Obviously, we wanted to play in the Pac-12, that would have been the first choice. But when that wasn't going to happen, we are thrilled to be in the ACC.
"I think it's going to a fabulous conference for women's basketball. We're really thankful the ACC wanted Stanford. And the biggest thing for us is to continue to be able to compete on the highest level, and I want to keep coaching players who want that combination of great academics and great basketball. We've recruited a lot of kids from the East Coast, so our recruiting is going to be fine."
No coach has been a bigger advocate of the Pac-12 and West Coast basketball than VanDerveer, who took over at Stanford in 1985 and has dominated the conference. The Cardinal have played in the women's Final Four 15 times and have won three NCAA championships, 26 league regular-season titles and 15 conference tournament titles since that event began in 2002. Stanford often traveled cross-country for nonconference games but will change its scheduling strategy upon joining the ACC.
"Instead of doing nonconference play back East, we'll play in November and December as much as possible on the West Coast," VanDerveer said. "Because then we'll be playing more East in January and February. Our nonconference will be regional, because our conference will be national."
VanDerveer, who turned 70 in June, said she is taking a pragmatic approach to the change in leagues. As committed as she has been to the growth of the Pac-12, she is looking for the bright spots to the move: a maintained rivalry with fellow Bay Area school Cal, and joining a league that has other highly regarded academic institutions such as Notre Dame and Duke, plus a history of women's basketball success.
"I'm going to use the phrase that Nneka Ogwumike's dad said to me," VanDerveer said, referring to the Stanford grad and Los Angeles Sparks star. "He said, 'You know, every disappointment can be a blessing.'
"What happened to the Pac-12 is very disappointing, but we're going to make the best of it. We're excited. We're very thankful to be in a league that wanted us. And it's a statement by Stanford that athletics really is important to Stanford."