The consummate teacher, yet always a student of the game, Tara VanDerveer has amassed one of the greatest careers in the history of college athletics. One of a handful of NCAA basketball coaches with more than 1,000 career wins, the legendary Stanford women’s basketball coach cemented her legacy as a pioneer, mentor, role model and champion. A four-time national coach of the year, she is one of the most recognizable and respected coaches in women’s basketball with two national championships (1990 and 1992), 12 final four appearances, 22 Pac-12 titles and 30 trips to the NCAA tournament. In 1996, she led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the Atlanta Olympics, a run that included a 60-0 record and spawned the creation of two women’s professional leagues in the United States, including the WNBA. In nearly four decades on the sidelines, VanDerveer has molded Olympians, a dozen first-team all-Americans as well as a generation of talented coaches. Her players have parlayed their Stanford experience into careers at the highest levels of business, science, law and sport, including 29 players moving on to professional careers in the WNBA. VanDerveer’s love for the game is evident in her quest to learn and evolve. Her professorial approach to offensive and defensive execution belies intense competitiveness. An inductee of both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2011) and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2002), VanDerveer grew up in upstate New York in the pre-Title IX era with limited opportunities for girls to participate in sports. Her first job was coaching her sister’s high school team, the start of a passion and a career that led her to Idaho and Ohio State before she found her home at Stanford, where she has been setting standards and changing lives for nearly 30 years.
Narrative by Michelle Smith McDonald