Tara VanDerveer, the winningest NCAA basketball coach, is retiring

Tara VanDerveer, the NCAA's winningest basketball coach with 1,216 victories over 45 years, will retire, Stanford announced Tuesday evening.

The school added that negotiations are underway for Kate Bye, a former player under VanDerveer and a longtime member of her staff, to become her successor.

VanDerveer, 70, was one of the most popular coaches in the sport, winning three national championships (1990, 1992 and 2021) in her 38 seasons at Stanford and leading them to 14 Final Four appearances. Naismith and the former Women's Basketball Hall of Famer coached at Idaho (1978 to 1980) and Ohio State (1980 to 1985).

“Basketball is the greatest team enterprise ever, and I am extremely grateful to every person who has supported me and our team throughout my coaching career,” VanDerveer said in a statement. “I have been spoiled with coaching the best and the brightest at one of the world's premier institutions for nearly four decades. Combined with my time at Ohio State, Idaho, and as head coach of the US National Team, it has been an unforgettable experience.” For me lies the journey of each season, as I see a group of young women working hard for each other and forming an unbreakable bond. Winning was a byproduct.

“I've loved the game of basketball since I was a little girl, and it's given me so much throughout my life. I hope I'm able to at least give back.”

VanDerveer, who finished with a record of 1,216-271 (81.8%), will continue to work with Stanford and the athletic department in an advisory capacity, the school said.

“Tara’s name is synonymous with the sport, and women’s basketball would not be what it is today without her pioneering work,” Stanford athletics director Bernard Muir said in a statement. “She has dedicated herself to this campus for 40 years and has been a servant to all of the student-athletes who have come through her program. Tara built an elite athletic program upon her arrival at Stanford, then maintained that standard for nearly four decades.

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“An energetic and positive teacher, Hall of Famer, and trusted friend and mentor, Tara’s influence is simply unparalleled, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to describe her as one of the most influential people ever associated with this university.”… We will look to find appropriate ways to honor “Her profound impact and legacy here at Stanford.”

VanDerveer passed retired Duke and Army coach Mike Krzyzewski's record of 1,202 wins on Jan. 21, earning her 1,203rd career win with a 65-56 decision at home against Oregon State. Its most recent win came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Maples Pavilion where the Cardinal defeated Iowa State. Double-seeded Stanford went on to lose in the Portland 4 Regional semifinal to eventual Final Four team N.C. State.

VanDerveer — a Massachusetts native who grew up in New York — may be best known for establishing a stronghold on California's West Coast, but her influence and distinction have been felt nationally and beyond. She has led Stanford to the NCAA Tournament every season since 1988, a streak of 36 consecutive appearances that is second only to Tennessee. She joins UConn's Geno Auriemma (136) and Tennessee's Pat Summitt (112) in amassing at least 100 NCAA Tournament wins, while collecting 28 Sweet 16s and 21 Elite Eights.

Her 14 Final Four appearances are third-most behind Auriemma (23) and Summitt (18), and she is one of five coaches with at least three national titles (along with Auriemma, Summitt, Baylor/LSU's Kim Mulkey and South Carolina's Dawn Staley).

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VanDerveer moved away from Stanford during the 1995-96 campaign in preparation for the 1996 Olympics, where she served as head coach of the U.S. National Team. The team's unbeaten run in Atlanta — the first of an active streak of seven gold medals and counting — is considered a huge stepping stone to the founding of the WNBA in 1997.

Perhaps it's fitting that VanDerveer moved on from coaching after the dissolution of the Pac-12 conference she helped lift to such dizzying heights. The conference realignment of the past two years will come to a head this summer when 10 Pac-12 schools officially leave for the Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC, the latter of which is where Stanford heads next.

For decades, Stanford has been practically synonymous with Pac-12 women's basketball, dominating the conference with 27 regular season titles since 1989 as well as 15 of its 23 tournament titles. The standard on and off the court that VanDerveer set at Stanford, other longtime Pac-12 coaches have long said, elevated the entire conference from one that was mostly an afterthought nationally to one of the nation's leading women's basketball leagues.

The Pac-12 had five teams in the Sweet 16 in the last tournament, the product of a collective conference-building effort led by its leader in VanDerveer.

“Tara is a legend on a global level, but she's also very influential to me on a personal level,” longtime UCLA coach Corey Close told ESPN. “I was a camper at her camps, played against her teams in college and worked at her camps and now I've coached against her and benefited from her guidance. She is amazing at her performances, guidance and example. “The game will be indebted to her for a very long time. I wish her nothing but the best. “I definitely earned that retirement.”

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Before the start of the final Pac-12 season, VanDerveer told ESPN she was “very happy” that the school had found a new home in the ACC amid such difficult circumstances.

“I think it's going to make a great conference for women's basketball,” VanDerveer told ESPN in October. “We're really grateful the ACC wanted Stanford. The most important thing for us is to continue to be able to compete at the highest level, and I want to continue to coach players who want that combination of great academics and great basketball. We've recruited a lot of kids.” From the East Coast, so our recruitment will be good.”

VanDerveer has produced successful WNBA players (such as Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, and former No. 1 overall picks Jennifer Azzi and Candice Wiggins) for decades, sending a total of 30 players to the WNBA draft since the league's founding — the second-most by a head coach. Graduating senior Cameron Brink, who was recently named Pac-12 Player of the Year, is expected to be a lottery pick in next week's draft as well.

“She's serious about the game, and she treats it with all the respect it deserves as a platform that empowers players beyond our wildest dreams…but she doesn't take herself too seriously,” Cheney told ESPN. “Tara will laugh, dance, and will always celebrate the team ahead of her.”

VanDerveer's last official day at Stanford will be May 8, the 39th anniversary of her appointment, the school said. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday on campus.

Auriemma, who has coached his entire career at UConn since 1985, will enter the 2023-24 season with 1,213 victories, three behind VanDerveer's record.

Paye, who played for VanDerveer from 1991-95, spent the last 17 years on VanDerveer's staff, including eight as assistant head coach.

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