April 20, 2024

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Stanford Women’s Basketball Head Coach Tara VanDerveer Laments Pac-12 Breakup as “Heartbreaking”

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Legendary Coach Tara VanDerveer Leaves Pac-12

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – UCLA coach Cori Close received one of the best lessons of her life growing up in the Bay Area.

Close attended the Tara VanDerveer Basketball Camp as a sophomore in high school.

“It completely changed my direction moving forward,” Close said Tuesday during Pac-12 Media Day. “As a player, I played her in the NCAA tournament and now I’m coaching against her. I’m just like, ‘Man, what are the standards without Tara VanDerveer?'”

Those standards will be introduced to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Big Ten at the end of this season, when the 10 Pac-12 schools go their separate ways.

Stanford, led by VanDerveer since 1985, is about to join the ACC.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Vanderveer, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the winningest coach in the sport’s history. “I had a nightmare. It’s a nightmare.”

Imagine how her peers felt.

“That’s one of the things that drew me to the Pacific League,” Arizona State coach Natasha Adair said. “Being able to attend meetings with respected coaches, Hall of Fame coaches, championship coaches, and being able to learn from Tara. Being in the same room with her and being able to ask her questions.”

Last season, when the Sun Devils’ roster was decimated by injuries and forced to forfeit games because they didn’t have enough healthy players, VanDerveer reached out to Adair.

“‘Coach, everything’s going to be OK,'” Adair said Tara told her. “This is someone who cares about the integrity of the league and cares about the coaches of the league. That says a lot about the kind of person she is and why she’s had such an impact and an illustrious career.”

VanDerveer said she will miss the relationships she built with her competitors and the camaraderie and collective support she had with them, especially during successful seasons.

“I was very excited about (Washington State coach) Kamie Etheridge and her team winning the Pac-12 Tournament (last season),” Vanderveer said. “Obviously, I wanted our team to win, but cheering them on and watching them when she was in the NCAA Tournament. The same goes for Utah or any team you play for. The relationship between coaches is very special.”

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Stanford Women’s Basketball Head Coach Tara VanDerveer Laments Pac-12 Breakup as “Heartbreaking”

VanDerveer enters her final season in the Stanford Pac-12 Conference, her 38th with the program, with 1,186 career victories. She led the Cardinal to three national championships and 13 Final Four appearances.

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Those numbers don’t reflect her impact on the sport. She brought competition, compassion, empathy and – as Cross and Oregon coach Kelly Graves said – set an example for others to follow.

“She’s the standard by which others in the conference and around the country are judged,” Graves said. “She’s done a great job over such a long period of time of setting an amazingly high standard for all of us coaches to coach our teams in a way that has an impact on lives.”

Graves said watching Vanderveer play in the Pac-12 Conference was the reason he took the job at Oregon and called her a coach he “wanted to follow and chase.”

“I credit her with the growth of our program and I’m going to miss her,” Graves said. “She has become a good friend. I think we agree on a lot of things. Not that we still won’t talk or anything like that, but things will be different.”

Graves said he hopes Oregon and Stanford can keep their rivalry alive with an unofficial game that could coincide with the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge men’s game.

VanDerveer’s final media day as Pac-12 coach was a sad moment. Nonetheless, she was pleased with what she helped create.

“I’m very proud of the product we’ve built in the Pac 12,” Vanderveer said. “Obviously, the amount of great teams, great players, tournament success. I don’t know of any other conference that has had as many teams go to the NCAA Tournament and succeed in the Final Four and win the national championship.

“Arguably the greatest gamers of all time were in our conference, and that makes me very proud.”

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