Here is some sports trivia for you: Did you know that the legendary college basketball head coach with the most wins in the history of the sport, and who also reignited USA Basketball, was about to get their record bested by a legendary college basketball coach who started world domination for Team USA Basketball?
The answer is more than likely, no.
The people I’m referring to are Mike Krzyzewski and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer. The icon is only a few wins away from dethroning the former Duke legend, and it’s time more people started talking about it. Because if VanDerveer were a man this would be a much bigger story — this is how misogyny works.
In the same way that Coach K’s incredible run with the Redeem Team put the men’s Olympic team back on the international map, it was VanDerveer who was the head coach for the women in the 1990s that has led to arguably the best and longest run by a country in a single sport in Olympic history. It makes sense that she’s about to pass Coach K, they have a lot in common, all the way down to succeeding at “nerd schools.”
“We’re not really focused on that,” VanDerveer said about approaching history. She can pass Coach K if Stanford beats Oregon and Oregon State this week, making her college basketball’s all-time wins leader as Krzyzewski stands at the 1,202 win mark. “Honestly, we’re just trying to play well each game.”
According to a recent report from The Athletic, VanDerveer achieved her first win when she was at Idaho when her squad beat Northern Montana, 70-68, on December 1, 1978. In her twelfth season at Stanford, VanDerveer won her first national championship when they knocked off Auburn, 88-80, on April 4, 1990. She won her second title in 1992 in a 78-62 win over Western Kentucky, and her third in 2021 when Stanford squeaked by Arizona, 54-53.
“I don’t think Tara’s ever been somebody who makes it about herself, although she’s been the steady drumbeat, heartbeat of this program for decades,” said former Stanford guard, and current sports broadcaster, Ros Gold-Onwude recently. “You can’t deny her, you can’t deny what she’s meant, not only to the women’s game, but the men’s game. You can’t deny her statistical significance, her historical significance, her significance over eras, her significance in the WNBA, the transfer of talent from college to the professional level.”
In a recent interview with the New York Times, VanDerveer listed hiring correctly, having a vision for her players, not being the center of attention, outworking her players, understating that every behavior is communication and learning the art of the controlled meltdown as some of her rules for leading a winning team. And in a year in which a woman — Iowa’s Caitlin Clark — is the biggest star in all of college basketball, as she’s approaching all-time scoring marks, it feels right that VanDerveer is about to become the game’s winningest coach. Now, if only the coverage and attention would rival, and surpass, what we see in the men’s game when these accomplishments happen.