January 10, 2011

Tributes to Tara

On the afternoon of her 805th career victory, Stanford officials and women’s basketball fans honored head coach Tara VanDerveer for her 800th. The tribute was somewhat delayed because the 800th win came at an away game (USF, Dec. 22), and many from the Stanford community were in Miami for the football team’s Orange Bowl game after that.

Hence, the accolades from Stanford president John Hennessy and athletic director Bob Bowlsby came just after Tara’s team had defeated Arizona State 82-35 on Jan. 8. They gave her flowers, a game ball and a framed poster picturing her holding a net aloft following a tournament victory. A video (which you can view here) also paid tribute to her.

“Well, 800 was a lot of fun, but how about 802?” Bowlsby said, referring to the 71-59 home victory over UConn on Dec. 30 that ended the Huskies’ 90-game winning streak.

Surrounded by her players, Tara thanked everyone, then added, “800 wins is because I work for a great university” with a great administration and coaching staff as well as “fabulous players” in front of “the loudest fans in the land.”

“At Stanford you work with smart players,” Tara told the Fast Break Club a short time later in Maples. The goal of Tara and her staff is “to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses … This group gets it,” she said.

In games 800 through 805, the team’s average margin of victory has been 36.1 points. The team also has dominated in most other statistical categories. Against ASU, for example, the team had edges of 40-28 in rebounding, 17-4 in assists and 10-6 in steals.

Another telling statistic is that Stanford had 25 bench points to ASU’s 16. “We’re talking about terrific players coming off the bench for us,” Tara said. “We substitute early and liberally,” and need “all players to be as invested as our starters.”

At the same time, she and her staff “want to outwork other coaches.” “We have the potential to be a very special team,” she said, adding that “we took them (ASU) out of what they like to do.”

“I thought our team played very well today,” she said. She had reminded the players that ASU beat DePaul, which handed Stanford a 91-71 loss in Chicago on Dec. 16.

When a fan commented on the Cardinal’s crisp passing against ASU, Tara said, “For our team, ‘pass’ is not a four-letter word.”

As for the victory over UConn, “That was a statement game” after “the Xavier game (an 89-52 victory) gave our team confidence and motivation.” Looking ahead, she said that “the maturity that we have going on the road will be key.”

Kayla talks about being a senior

Preceding Tara at the microphone was senior forward Kayla Pedersen, introduced by associate head coach Amy Tucker. Being a senior “is extremely different,” Kayla said, because of the realization that she and her classmates have their last chance for everything. “You take in all the little things that you take for granted,” she said.

Kayla has already completed the coursework for her major in psychology. This term she is taking only one class, the one that’s needed to complete her other major in communication. She’s finishing one quarter early with hopes of going into the WNBA and playing overseas. She doesn’t have a preferred country. “I’ll just jump at any opportunity to play overseas,” she said.

In her free time she likes to go to movies with her teammates. “Our whole team hangs out together,” she said.

Noting that Kayla has played many positions, one fan asked which is her favorite. “Anything that keeps me on the floor,” she said.

Asked about the UConn game, she said, “It was absolutely amazing. All the fans were just incredibly loud and rowdy.” Afterward, the team went out to eat, then hung out together at the hotel where they were staying during the break between quarters.

Reminders of the UConn game are likely to be seen often because red T-shirts emblazoned with “Stanford 71, UConn 59” were on sale in the concourse. Running down the right side of the shirts are these words: “All good things must come to an end.”

What Ros has been doing

Also speaking to the FBC was Rosalyn Gold-Onwude,’10, who talked about her post-Stanford activities. Her day job is with Tesla, the electric carmaker headquartered in Palo Alto. “I’ve enjoyed staying close,” she said. “California has really grown on me.”

The communication major also has auditioned for ESPN after meeting some of its staff at the Final Four and giving them her resume. As a result, she will provide color commentary for some of its women’s basketball broadcasts, starting with Oklahoma at Texas on Jan. 16. She also has done All Access webcasts of Stanford home games.

Sidelights from the ASU game

The national anthem was sung by the Fisher Middle School Choir from Los Gatos and was followed by prolonged applause. It was one of the best renditions I’ve heard at Maples.

With 14 minutes to go in the second half, freshman point guard Toni Kokenis made a basket, then lost her shoe as she was racing back on defense. She continued running, but luckily for her, a whistle stopped the action and gave her a chance to put her shoe on. In the meantime, Kayla, who was on the bench by then, had retrieved it.

All 12 healthy players logged at least five minutes of playing time. The most anyone played was 26 minutes – junior forward Nneka Ogwumike. Her 16 points were second only to senior guard Jeanette Pohlen, who had 18. Also in double figures was Kayla with 10 points.

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