Tara VanDerveer has never concerned herself with coaching milestones, always focusing on the next game.
So it's no surprise that shortly after joining the exclusive 900-win club Wednesday, the Hall of Fame coach celebrated by getting ready for Stanford's game on Thursday. She did take a few moments to reflect on the achievement after improving to 900-204 with No. 6 Stanford's 83-59 win over Florida Gulf Coast in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
"It goes fast," she said. "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 blessed life."
VanDerveer joined Jody Conradt, C. Vivian Stringer, Sylvia Hatchell and Pat Summitt with 900 victories. It's not farfetched to think that VanDerveer could one day pass Summitt's record of 1,098 wins. It only took Stanford's coach three seasons to achieve her last 100 victories. She is 60, and getting 200 more is attainable. She recently said after signing a contract extension that she'd coach "as long as I want."
"I couldn't be any happier for Tara," Stringer said. "900 is a special milestone, one that not many of us have reached. It's a testimony to not only her, but the players who have believed in her and her abilities. Years ago Tara and I talked about promising to be true to this game and she very much has. She coaches for the love of the game. I am so very proud of her. She is a brilliant coach who is totally consumed by the love of this game and always will be."
VanDerveer was presented with a game ball after the final buzzer Wednesday and the players held up signs with "900" written on them. She received many texts and tweets from former players and coaches offering congratulations on the accomplishment.
"She's just the best," said San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who used to coach at Stanford. "A tremendous coach, great person, one of best coaches I've met, hands down. I love her."
VanDerveer has 748 wins at Stanford after spending two seasons at Idaho, her first time as a head coach, then five at Ohio State. In her 28 years on the Farm, she has won 21 regular-season conference titles, two national championships and made 10 trips to the Final Four, including a run of five in a row from 2008-2012.
VanDerveer has coached some outstanding players during her time at Stanford. From Jennifer Azzi and Val Whiting, who helped her win the title in 1990, to Candice Wiggins, Nicole Powell, Jayne Appel and the Ogwumike sisters, Nneka and Chiney.
"Tara has been an outstanding coach for so long and has had an unbelievable career," Hatchell said. "Congratulations on winning 900 games. For as long as I've known Tara her teams have always been coached well and conducted themselves in a first-class manner because she does things the right way. I've enjoyed being her friend and colleague during our years of coaching."
VanDerveer started out by sending letters to the top 20 college programs in the country. She wound up at Ohio State as a volunteer coach of the junior varsity team. Those Buckeyes went 8-0, which she counts as one of her two undefeated teams along with the 1996 American Olympic gold medalists.
There have been many more winning teams since, though the Cardinal haven't captured a national championship since 1992 despite five recent trips to the Final Four, a run that ended last season.
"When I started coaching it never enters your mind winning any games. I live in the moment for that game, that season. I'm not a bean counter," VanDerveer said.
Unlike win 800, which took three tries to reach, No. 900 wasn't in doubt much after the start.
Chiney Ogwumike led the Cardinal (6-1) with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Mikaela Ruef added 14 points and 12 rebounds. Both were on the team when VanDerveer won No. 800 in 2010.
"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. She's a very humble person. We're excited to put a smile on her face."
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Stanford, Calif. contributed to this story
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