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Monday, April 4, 2011
Tara VanDerveer honored on a 'tough morning'

By Michelle Smith

INDIANAPOLIS -- On a bittersweet morning in Indiana -- the place her career as a basketball coach was born -- Tara VanDerveer earned one of the highest honors of her career.

VanDerveer became one of 11 women named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Monday, hours after her Stanford Cardinal were eliminated from the NCAA Final Four after a 63-62 loss to Texas A&M.

"The sun did not come up this morning here," VanDerveer said, and she was correct on a stormy Midwest morning.

"This is kind of a tough morning to be a basketball coach for me, waking up after our loss last night. But this opportunity to be enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame is an incredible honor, and I'm overwhelmed by it."

VanDerveer, 57, is one of the most accomplished coaches in the women's game. She is one of five Division I coaches with more than 800 career victories, a milestone she passed earlier this season. VanDerveer has a career record of 826-198. In 25 years at Stanford, she is 674-147.

She has won two national titles with Stanford, in 1990 and 1992, and has since taken the Cardinal to seven Final Fours, including the last four in a row. She has led Stanford to 19 Pac-10 titles.

As the coach of the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, she led the star-laden U.S. team to a 60-0 record and the gold medal.

Lisa Leslie, who played on that team, has called VanDerveer the "best coach I was ever coached by."

"She taught me how to be a champion, not just to win," Leslie said.

There are connections everywhere in this milestone for VanDerveer. She went to college at Indiana University and spent her afternoons watching then-coach Bobby Knight run his practices, keeping notes in a journal that laid the foundation for her own coaching style.

VanDerveer is known as one of the most analytical, detailed coaches in the game.

She will be enshrined in the Hall on Aug. 12 in Springfield, Mass., the place her grandparents met, went to college and raised her mother, Rita.

But VanDerveer was not in the right place for a sentimental journey Monday morning.

It's all a little tough to see through the haze of Sunday night's deep disappointment. Hers was a Stanford team that many thought could win the national championship. The Cardinal led by 10 points with six minutes to go and lost on a Tyra White layup with 3.3 seconds on the clock.

"I should be really excited and I am, but I wish it hadn't come on this day," VanDerveer said. "On this day, I'm not feeling great about myself or how we played. I'm thinking of all the things I should have done or could have done.

"If we got a stop, we're in a different mood today."

Still, VanDerveer said the Naismith enshrinement is "the ultimate compliment to a coach or a basketball player, and I'm humbled and honored."

But the celebration will have to take place another day.