February 5, 2017

Tara, team share triumph

Tara talks strategy during a timeout. (Stanford photo)
Confetti rained down and cheers resounded from nearly 4,500 fans as the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 58-42 victory over visiting USC gave head coach Tara VanDerveer the 1,000th win of her career on Feb. 3.

She became only the second women’s coach to reach that milestone, preceded by the late Pat Summitt at Tennessee.

As photographers crowded onto the floor immediately after the game, two of the team’s seniors, guard Karlie Samuelson and forward Erica “Bird” McCall sneaked up behind Tara preparing to dump an orange bucket of Gatorade on her. But instead of the sticky liquid, it was filled with multi-colored confetti to match the confetti coming down from overhead.

The team donned T-shirts reading “Tara 1,000” and held up four giant numerals -– 1,000.

Congratulations and keepsakes

“Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment,” said Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10, covering the game for the Pac-12 Network. When the season started, Ros said, Bird told her that the team had set four goals: win the Pac-12 championship, go to the NCAA tournament, go to the Final Four and win Tara’s 1,000th game. Now it’s one down, three to go for the team.

Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner, presented a trophy to Tara and praised the “impact she’s had on so many student athletes.”

Bird, Karlie and the other senior, guard Briana Roberson, gave Tara a framed Stanford jersey with 1,000 on it plus a photo of her holding up a championship net and a list of career milestones.

“I am really speechless,” Tara said, but went on to say, “We had a great game. … We want to have even bigger games the rest of the year.”

She noted that she’d remember this game, but “I’ll never forget 999 either.” She was referring to the 72-68 win at Washington on Jan. 29 that moved Stanford into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

“What gives me great pleasure” is the improvement that players make during their years at Stanford and then their accomplishments after graduation, she said.

 “I have more than 1,000 memories, (and) I’m moving on to 1,001 on Monday night,” she said. That’s when UCLA visits.

Video board shows tributes

Joining her mother, Rita, and the rest of the Maples gathering, she turned to the video board to watch a series of tributes, starting with athletic director Bernard Muir and head football coach David Shaw.

More tributes came from former star players: Jennifer Azzi, ’90; Jayne Appel-Marinelli, ’10; Chiney Ogwumike, ’14; Nneka Ogwumike, ’12; Jeanette Pohlen Mavunga, ’11; and Candice Wiggins, ’08.

They continued with Andy Geiger, the retired Stanford athletic director who hired Tara; Brooks Johnson, former Stanford track coach; Mary Murphy, TV commentator; Dawn Staley, South Carolina coach who played on the 1996 gold-winning Olympic team coached by Tara; Carol Callan, USA Women’s Basketball director; and Tara’s sister Heidi VanDerveer, head coach at UC San Diego.

After tossing the traditional victory balls into the stands, the team headed for the locker room.

Band makes welcome appearance outside

As fans left Maples, they were entertained by the band, Dollies and Tree outside the northwest entrance. The band has been on suspension but is expected to be allowed to play for home games before the winter quarter ends in late March.

In the meantime, recorded music has been filling the void, but the Prospect High School band of Saratoga was in the stands to provide some music for this game.

The game started on a positive note with all 13 players available for the first time in several weeks.

As has been the case recently, the starting lineup featured Bird, Karlie, Bri, junior forward Kaylee Johnson and junior guard Brittany McPhee.

Game starts slowly

Things got off to a slow start, especially for USC. Karlie scored her team’s first 2 points on free throws, followed by two more FT’s by Bird and a basket by Karlie. Trailing 6-0, USC finally got on the board with a trey at the 6:45 mark.

The first quarter ended 14-10 in the host’s favor. The margin widened to 31-22 at the half, just after Bird launched a successful 3 with 3.8 seconds left.

Because it was National Girls and Women in Sports Day, halftime honored the national championship women’s volleyball team, which marched onto the court with its trophy. They were followed by seven of Stanford’s female medal-winning Olympians of 2016, and then a performance by the all-girl San Juan Dance of Los Altos.

Karlie shoots for 3 from way downtown. (Stanford photo)
Karlie provided some late third-quarter fireworks with three consecutive 3’s in slightly more than a minute, followed by a last-second 2-pointer, helping to raise the score to 52-32. Bird and Britt also made 3’s during the game.

Karlie finished the game with a team-high 21 points, plus four rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes. Just behind her was Bird with 18 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 35 minutes.

Britt with the grit

Britt aggressively drives toward the basket. (Stanford photo)
Britt, who made a number of gutsy plays that don’t necessarily show up in the stats, was the only other player in double figures. She had 10 points plus five rebounds and one block in 28 minutes.

Kaylee had 11 of the team’s 39 rebounds (compared with USC’s 27), plus 2 points, three assists, two blocks and one steal in 25 minutes.

Tara began her career with two years at Idaho starting in 1978. She went on to Ohio State for five years before moving on to the Farm in 1985.

It’s highly likely that she would have reached 1,000 victories earlier, but she took off the 1995-96 year to coach the Olympic team.

Other highlights of her storied career are detailed elsewhere in the extensive coverage on this Fast Break Club site.

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