Tara VanderVeer: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Tara VanDerveer. (Getty)

In the history of college basketball, both men’s and women’s, only two coaches have had the longevity and sustained success required to reach 1,000 victories, Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and the late Pat Summit, who coached the women’s team at Tennessee.

That number expanded to three Friday night, when the eighth-ranked Stanford Cardinal women’s basketball team (20-3 overall, 10-1 Pac-12) defeated USC at home to make head coach Tara VanderVeer, 63, the third college basketball coach to reach the monumental plateau.

Here are five fast facts you need to know about VanderVeer:

1. VanderVeer Coached the United States Women’s Olympic Team to Gold

When the United States Olympic Committee was seeking a coach for its women’s team for the 1996 games in Atlanta, Georgia, VanderVeer, who had been coaching for 11 years at Stanford at the time after two seasons at Idaho and five at Ohio State, was at the top of the list of candidates. VanderVeer accepted the offer, taking a leave of absence from her job with the Cardinal. What followed was the beginning of a run of six consecutive gold medals for the US women’s team, all beginning with the team that VanderVeer put together and directed.

That team went undefeated in 52 exhibition games leading up to the commencement of the Olympics, and then blazed through all eight contests in the Olympics to claim gold. The roster, which included players like Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo and Lisa Leslie, has gone on to success in the WNBA and coaching in the collegiate ranks themselves.

The legacy of Chataqua, New York native VanderVeer’s work in basketball can not only be seen in her part in the 1996 Olympics, which is often credited as part of the reason for the rise of the WNBA, but in all of her players that have gone pro thanks to her tutelage.

2. VanderVeer Has Led Dozens of Players to Professional Careers

Since the inception of the WNBA in 1997, there have only been six years (2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016) in which at least one Stanford player was not selected. In total, 24 of VanderVeer’s players have been drafted into the WNBA.

  • 1997: Jamila Wildeman, third overall to Los Angeles
  • 1998: Olympia Scott, 11th overall to Utah; Vanessa Nygard, 39th overall to New York
  • 1999: Jennifer Azzi, fifth overall to Detroit; Val Whiting, 17th overall to Detroit; Sonja Henning, 24th overall to Houston; Kate Starbird, 26th overall to Sacramento
  • 2000: Naomi Mulitauaopele, 12th overall to Utah; Katy Steding, 14th overall to Sacramento; Milena Flores, 40th overall to Miami
  • 2001: Carolyn Moos, 53rd overall to Phoenix
  • 2002: Lindsey Yamasaki, 29th overall to Miami; Cori Enghusen, 58th overall to Houston
  • 2004: Nicole Powell, third overall to Charlotte
  • 2007: Brooke Smith, 23rd overall to Minnesota; Kristen Newlin, 34th overall to Houston.
  • 2008: Candice Wiggins, third overall to Minnesota
  • 2010: Jayne Appel, fifth overall to San Antonio
  • 2011: Kayla Pedersen, seventh overall to Dallas; Jeanette Pohlen, ninth overall to Indiana
  • 2012: Nnemkadi Ogwumike, first overall to Los Angeles
  • 2014: Chiney Ogwumike, first overall to Connecticut; Mikaela Ruef, 31st overall to Seattle
  • 2015: Amber Orrange, 23rd overall to New York

For all of her accomplishments, VanderVeer has already garnered many accolades.

3. VanderVeer is Already Enshrined in Springfield

In 2011, VanderVeer was inducted into the James Naismith Hall of Fame. It’s been just under 14,000 days (about 38 1/3 years) since VanderVeer began her career at Stanford, meaning that she has averaged a win for every two weeks of her life since she took the job.

In fact, she only trails Summit, who holds the career wins record for both men’s and women’s college basketball, by 98 wins. It’s possible that when she retires, she could be the winningest coach in college basketball history, men’s and women’s combined.

That would be a tremendous accomplishment to add to her already impressive list of two national championships (1990 and 1992) and her two Naismith Coach of the Year awards (1990 and 2011). The job at Stanford seems to be hers as long as she wants it for, because of both her success and the school’s commitment to her which is seen in her contract.

4. VanderVeer Has a Long-Term Contract with Stanford

In 2013, with two years remaining on her current deal, VanderVeer signed a new contract for an unspecified length and value. The contract was said to be “long-term” by athletic director Bernard Muir. In 2015, Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Gate reported that her annual salary was $155,905.

5. Coaching Basketball Runs in the VanderVeer Blood

VanderVeer’s sister, Heidi (who turns 53 on February 11), has several years of coaching experience as well.

Heidi began her coaching career at Eastern Washington University in 1994, staying with the Eagles for three seasons as the head coach. She then had two stints as an interim head coach in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm. In 2008 she returned to the college game with Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, before moving on to UC San Diego in 2012, where she remains the head coach today. Heidi played her college basketball for Summit at Tennessee.

Whether or not VanderVeer will catch or surpass Summit remains to be seen, but what’s certain is that she doesn’t need to. VanderVeer has already made history of her own.