|Born||June 26, 1953|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Tournaments||60–23 (NCAA Division I)|
5–1 (Big Ten)
|Accomplishments and honors|
|Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2011 (profile)
|Women's Basketball Hall of Fame|
Tara Ann VanDerveer (born June 26, 1953) is an American basketball coach who has been the head women's basketball coach at Stanford University since 1985. Designated the Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball, VanDerveer led the Stanford Cardinal to three NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championships: in 1990, 1992 and 2021. She stepped away from the Stanford program for a year to serve as the U.S. national team head coach at the 1996 Olympic Games. VanDerveer is the 1990 Naismith National Coach of the Year and a ten-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. She is also one of only nine NCAA Women's Basketball coaches to win over 900 games, and one of ten NCAA Division I coaches – men's or women's – to win 1,000 games. Van Derveer was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. On December 15, 2020 she passed Pat Summitt for most wins in women's college basketball history.
VanDerveer was born on June 26, 1953, to Dunbar and Rita VanDerveer, who named their first child "Tara" after the plantation in Gone with the Wind. She was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, a part of Greater Boston, but grew up in the small community of West Hill, near Schenectady, New York.
There were no sports teams for girls at her first high school, but she played a number of sports including basketball, in rec leagues and pickup. When she was younger, she played with both boys and girls. As she entered her high school years, the girls dropped out for other interests, so she was more apt to play with boys. To help make sure she would be chosen, she bought the best basketball she could afford, so if the boys wanted to play with her basketball, they would have to pick her.
VanDerveer's family moved to Niagara Falls in her sophomore year of high school. Though she had never played basketball at the high-school level, VanDerveer took the game up again after she transferred to Buffalo Seminary, an all-girls college preparatory school, in her junior year. She ended up earning a place in the Buffalo Seminary's Athletic Hall of Fame.
VanDerveer was determined to play basketball in college. Unable to afford tuition at her first choice, Mount Holyoke, she chose to attend Albany where her father had studied for his doctorate. The team was not highly competitive, but she knew the coach, which helped with the decision. The team turned out not be challenging enough. Although naturally a guard, she shifted to the center position, and led the team in many categories, despite being a freshman on the team. She decided she needed a bigger challenge so she talked some of her friends into attending the AIAW National Championship, where she watched many teams, took notes, and decided where she wanted to go. She chose Indiana where she transferred and spent three years, making the Dean's List each of the three years. In her sophomore year, 1973 she helped the team reach the Final Four of the AIAW championship, losing in the semi-finals to Queens College.
At that time, the men's basketball team at Indiana was coached by future Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight. The Indiana women's coach, Bea Gorton, patterned her style of play and practices after Knight, and it was the observation of the style of play at the AIAW event that persuaded VanDerveer to choose Indiana. VanDerveer enrolled in Knight's basketball coaching classes at IU and regularly observed his team's practices. VanDerveer carried what she learned from Knight to her practices at Stanford.
After completing college, VanDerveer took a year off, with a plan to return to law school. When she ran out of money she returned home. When her parents realized she was doing little beyond playing chess and sleeping, they urged her to help with her sister Marie's basketball team. Her sister was five years younger, and by the time Marie reached high school, the school had basketball teams for girls. Though frustrated by the lack of commitment from the girls on her team, VanDerveer discovered a passion for coaching basketball.
Inspired by the experience, VanDerveer applied to twenty colleges and universities for an unpaid graduate assistant position. She received only two responses, one of which was for Ohio State, where the athletic director had remembered her from Indiana. She was hired as an assistant coach of the varsity team and the head coach of the JV squad.
In her first year, she coached the JV team to an 8–0 season. That caught the attention of Marianne Stanley at Old Dominion, who offered her an assistant coaching position. VanDerveer wanted to finish her master's degree, so accepted a paid position at Ohio State, at a salary less than a quarter of the Old Dominion offer.
After two years at Ohio State, during which she earned a master's degree in sports administration, she was hired as head coach at the University of Idaho. When she arrived at Idaho, the team had only one winning season in their first four years. Under VanDerveer, the team improved to 17–8 in her first year, the 1978 season. The team won the first game of the season, beating the Northern Montana Skylights 80–78, which represented the first of VanDerveer's wins. The following year, the team improved to 25–6, which earned the team an invitation to the AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament (the precursor to the NCAA National Championships).
VanDerveer returned to Ohio State as head coach in 1981. Her tenure included a record-breaking February 3, 1985 game against Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena that was attended by 22,157 fans, at the time the largest crowd ever assembled to watch a women's basketball game. Ohio State won the game 56–47.
By 1985, VanDerveer had developed Ohio State into a nationally ranked team, breaking into the Top 20 in 1984, and reaching number 7 in the final rankings of 1985. Their success in 1985 earned a two seed in the 1985 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament. They made it to the Elite Eight, but lost by four points to eventual national champion Old Dominion. While Stanford would later become one of the nation's powerhouses in women's basketball, in 1985 it was coming off a 9–19 year following a 5–23 year, with only 300 fans a game. Despite this challenge, Andy Geiger convinced VanDerveer to come to Stanford to become the head coach. VanDerveer later recounted that her friends told her going to Stanford was a bad move, because Stanford was too "brainy" to be good in sports. She said, "My dad told me I was crazy to take this job. He said, 'You’ll be unemployed and coming home to live with us in three months'."
VanDerveer's first year with Stanford was a step backward for the coach. After four consecutive 20-plus win seasons at Ohio State, the Cardinal finished under .500 in her first year, with a 13–15 record, and barely improved that the following year, reaching 14–14. By her third year, when she was playing her own recruits, and the team was now following her coaching philosophy, the record jumped to 27–5. Stanford did not earn a bid to the NCAA tournament in either of her first two years, and had not attended since 1982, but earned a bid in 1988, reaching the Sweet Sixteen, and has earned an invitation to the tournament in every subsequent year.
Another milestone was reached in the following year, when Stanford won the Pac-10 regular season, the first of many conference championships. They earned a two seed in the NCAA tournament, and played to their seed, losing to Louisiana Tech in the Midwest Regional Final.
In the 1990 tournament, Stanford advanced to the Final Four to face Virginia in the semi-final. The Cavaliers were competing in their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, and had reached the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight in each of the previous three years. Stanford beat Virginia 75–66 to advance to the National Championship game. The championship game pitted Stanford against Auburn, who had finished as runner-up in each of the last two Tournaments. Auburn opened up an early lead, but Stanford point guard Jennifer Azzi helped bring the team back to a tie score by halftime, and led a run in the second half that would earn the Most Outstanding player award for Azzi, and the first National Championship for VanDerveer and Stanford.
By 2019 Stanford had won two NCAA championships and 12 trips to the Final Four. VanDerveer's coaching record at Stanford was 900–192, making her the fifth Division I coach to chalk up 900 wins at a single school.
On December 14, 2020 VanDerveer tied the record for coaching wins and then surpassed existing women's game wins record (held by Pat Summitt) when Stanford beat Pacific on December 16, 2020.
In April 2021, VanDerveer led the Cardinal to their third NCAA title with a 54-53 victory over their Pac-12 rival Arizona Wildcats. It marked their first title in 29 years.
Although the USA Basketball women's national team had considerable success in the 1980s—winning the 1984 Olympics, the 1986 World Championship, the 1988 Olympics, and the 1990 World Championship—there were signs of concern. The USA women's Pan American team, while not formally the national team, has, since the mid-1970s, included many of the same players as the national team. The Pan Am team in 1991 would finish third, signaling a potential end to Team USA's past dominance. The national team finished third at the 1992 Olympics, and third again in the 1994 World Championship. The 1995 Pan Am Games were cancelled, so the national team players did not have a win after the 1992 Olympics.
The USA Basketball organization, with input from VanDerveer, decided to depart from the usual strategy of forming a team a few weeks before the event, which severely limited the practice time. Instead, they decided to form a full-time national team to stay together for a year, preparing to the 1996 Olympics. VanDerveer was chosen as head coach, but was expected to take a one-year sabbatical from her head coaching position at Stanford.
VanDerveer had previously worked with USA Basketball teams in 1986 and 1990, and served as the head coach of the team representing the US at the 1991 World University Games. That team went 8–0 and won the gold medal in Sheffield, England. Two years later, she coached the team in the World Championship qualifying event. She continued as the coach of the National team at the 1994 World Championships in Sydney, where the USA team won the bronze medal. Two months later, VanDerveer coached the USA Goodwill Games team to a 4–0 record and a gold medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games in Saint Petersburg. Though her prior experience meant she was the obvious choice as coach of the Olympic team, she was initially reluctant to take the position, as she had decided that to do it properly she would need to take a leave of absence from Stanford. In her words, "When you're representing your country, it's not something you want to mess up." She eventually decided to take the position, and did take the leave of absence, with Amy Tucker and Marianne Stanley taking over the reins at Stanford in her absence.
Prior to 1996, the head coach had much input into the national team selection. While the USA Basketball organization selected the pool of potential players, the head coach chose the final team. That changed in 1996, when USA Basketball decided to take over the selection role. The initial selection was of 11 players, with plans to add a 12th player later, which would allow the organization to determine what was most needed. The lack of input led to some differences of opinions, as VanDerveer was concerned that the team assembled by USA Basketball was undersized compared with teams like China, which featured a 6'8" (2.03 m) center.
Although Team USA would win all eight games in the 1996 Olympics, with the closest game being a 15-point victory over Japan, VanDerveer was not certain of victory, even as the team was en route to a 52–0 pre-Olympic record against college and national teams. After beating the Cuban national team on May 26, 1996, in Townsville, Australia, the team record reached 44–0. In their next game against the Ukraine national team, played in Adelaide on May 14, the USA team won again, but VanDerveer was not happy. Ukraine, at full strength, was not the best team in the world, and was not seen to be as strong as Russia or Brazil. Moreover, Ukraine was expected to add better players before the Olympics, yet the USA team won by only 11 points, 62–51. VanDerveer recalled worrying at the time: "There's no way we can play like this and win a gold medal."
The opening game of the Olympics was against Cuba, a team the USA had beaten handily several times during their exhibition tour. The USA team was playing in front of a home crowd and played tight in the beginning, while Cuba hit six of their first eight shots to take a 14–7 lead. The USA team settled down, helped by a spark from the reserves, and went on to win 101–84. The second game was against Ukraine, another team they had played in exhibition, but a team that had competed well against the US, worrying VanDerveer. This time the USA team won by a comfortable score of 98–65.
While the first two games were in the compact Morehouse College gym, filled to capacity with under 5,000 spectators, Team USA would play their third game at the Georgia Dome against Zaire. The total attendance of 31,320 broke the record for the largest crowd ever to witness a women's basketball game. Zaire was over-matched, and the USA team won 107–47, ensuring a place in the medal rounds. The next game was against Australia, one of the stronger teams in the field. The game was the first game played by Team USA after the bombing incident which left the team with little sleep. The attendance set a new record, with 33,952 spectators. The game was close for much of the game, with no team leading by more than six points until late in the second half, when Team USA extended the margin and won 96–79. Team USA had a height advantage in the next game against Japan, with no Japanese player standing over six feet tall (1.83 m). The USA exploited the advantage, and opened up a 28-point lead, but Japan fought back with three-point shooting and cut the lead to 13 at one point. The final margin was 15 points, the closest game to that point.
After emerging undefeated from the group stage, VanDerveer's team faced Australia again in the semi-final match, winning 93-71. They faced Brazil two days later in the championship game, winning 111-87 and earning USA their third Olympic gold in women's basketball.
VanDerveer's Olympic team was considered one of the best ever assembled, and compiled a 60–0 record over the course of the year, culminating in a gold medal at the Olympics in Atlanta.
Twelve of VanDerveer's players and assistant coaches have gone on to head coaching positions:
|Name||Most recent head coaching position||Years with VanDerveer|
|Jennifer Azzi||San Francisco (2010–2016)||1987–1990 (player)|
|Beth Burns||San Diego State (1989–1997, 2005–2013)||2004–2005 (strength and conditioning coach)|
|June Daugherty||Washington State (2007–2018)||1985–1989 (assistant coach)|
|Molly Goodenbour||San Francisco (2016–present)||1989–1993 (player)|
|Bobbie Kelsey||Wisconsin (2011–2016)||1992–1996 (player), 2007–2011 (assistant coach)|
|Lindy La Rocque||UNLV (2020–present)||2009–2012 (player), 2017–2020 (assistant coach)|
|Karen Middleton||Western Carolina (2009–2015)||1997–2007 (assistant coach)|
|Nicole Powell||UC Riverside (2020–present)||2000–2004 (player)|
|Julie Rousseau||Pepperdine (2004–2013)||2000–2004 (assistant coach)|
|Charmin Smith||California (2019–present)||1994–1997 (player), 2004–2007 (assistant coach)|
|Charli Turner Thorne||Arizona State (1996–present)||1985–1988 (player)|
|Heidi VanDerveer||UC San Diego (2012–present)||2003–2004 (video coordinator)|
Sources:Idaho, Ohio State, Big Ten, Stanford.
|Idaho Vandals (AIAW independent) (1978–1979)|
|Idaho Vandals (Northwest Empire League) (1979–1980)|
|1979–80||Idaho||25–6||10–2||AIAW First Round|
|Idaho:||42–14 (.750)||10–2 (.833)|
|Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1980–1985)|
|1981–82||Ohio State||20–7||3–0||1st||NCAA First Round|
|1983–84||Ohio State||22–7||17–1||1st||NCAA First Round|
|1984–85||Ohio State||28–3||18–0||1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|Ohio State:||110–37 (.748)||55–5 (.917)|
|Stanford Cardinal (Pacific West Conference) (1985–1986)|
|Stanford Cardinal (Pac–10 Conference) (1986–1995)|
|1987–88||Stanford||27–5||14–4||3rd||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|1988–89||Stanford||28–3||18–0||1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|1990–91||Stanford||26–6||16–2||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|1992–93||Stanford||26–6||15–3||1st||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|1993–94||Stanford||25–6||15–3||2nd||NCAA Elite Eight|
|1994–95||Stanford||30–3||17–1||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|Stanford Cardinal (Pac–10/Pac–12 Conference) (1996–present)|
|1996–97||Stanford||34–2||18–0||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|1997–98||Stanford||21–6||17–1||1st||NCAA First Round|
|1998–99||Stanford||18–12||14–4||3rd||NCAA First Round|
|1999–00||Stanford||21–9||13–5||T–2nd||NCAA Second Round|
|2000–01||Stanford||19–11||12–6||T–1st||NCAA Second Round|
|2001–02||Stanford||32–3||18–0||1st||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2002–03||Stanford||27–5||15–3||1st||NCAA Second Round|
|2003–04||Stanford||27–7||14–4||T–1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2004–05||Stanford||32–3||17–1||1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2005–06||Stanford||26–8||15–3||1st||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2006–07||Stanford||29–5||17–1||1st||NCAA Second Round|
|2008–09||Stanford||33–5||17–1||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|2010–11||Stanford||33–3||18–0||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|2011–12||Stanford||35–2||18–0||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|2012–13||Stanford||33–3||17–1||T–1st||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2013–14||Stanford||33–4||17–1||1st||NCAA Final Four|
|2014–15||Stanford||26–10||13–5||T–3rd||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2015–16||Stanford||27–8||14–4||3rd||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2016–17||Stanford||32–6||15–3||T-2nd||NCAA Final Four|
|2017–18||Stanford||24–11||14–3||2nd||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2018–19||Stanford||31–5||15–3||2nd||NCAA Elite Eight|
|2019–20||Stanford||27–6||14–4||T-2nd||Postseason canceled due to COVID|
|Stanford:||981–206 (.826)||531–91 (.854)|
Postseason invitational champion
VanDerveer is also an avid piano player. Her sister Heidi VanDerveer, who coached for several years with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm, as well as Occidental College in Los Angeles, is now the head coach at UC San Diego.