By Aaron Juarez
Stanford Sports Information
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the zenith of the career of any basketball player, coach, official, or contributor, will induct its Class of 2011 this Friday, Aug. 12 at 4 p.m. PT in Springfield, Mass.
Part of this 10-member class will be Stanford's Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball, Tara VanDerveer, adding another bit of luster to a memorable and successful career in the game.
While the majority of her illustrious coaching career has been spent patrolling the Stanford sideline, VanDerveer's road to Springfield has included stops at Ohio State and Idaho, as well as multiple stints at the helm of the U.S. Senior Women's National Team.
Her love for the game was evident during her undergraduate studies at Indiana, where VanDerveer was a member of the Indiana University women's basketball team under head coach Bea Gorton.
When not at practice or in class, VanDerveer would bolster her understanding of the game by observing the men's basketball practices run by head coach Bobby Knight.
Yet soon after her graduation from Indiana in 1975, VanDerveer found herself back home in upstate New York, facing the issue that has been around since people first started graduating from college: trying to figure out what to do in life and how to go about doing it.
An order from her father sent VanDerveer to her first coaching job, helping run her sister Marie's high school team. That job taught VanDerveer the first of many important lessons in coaching.
"What I really liked actually was the fact that I love my sister and it really kind of reminded me that everyone is someone's sister," VanDerveer said. "As crazy as you can be sometimes in basketball, you kind of have to remember that they're kids. I think it was a great experience for me to start with. That was one of the most important lessons I learned right from the beginning."
VanDerveer learned something else during that first coaching stint: she really enjoyed coaching. She wrote letters to the top 20 women's basketball programs in the nation, and in the meantime went to the Kathy Rush basketball camp during the summer. There, VanDerveer would have her team practice such things as offensive rebounding during the lunch break. The extra work resulted in the team winning the camp title.
Meanwhile, she had heard back from a pair of schools, USC and Ohio State, regarding her desire to coach. VanDerveer chose to go to Ohio State as a volunteer coach. In Columbus, she led the junior varsity team to a perfect 8-0 record, one of just two undefeated teams VanDerveer has helmed during her career.
She continued to feed on basketball knowledge at every turn. She watched the men's practices run by Ohio State head coach Eldon Miller. She asked visiting teams for permission to observe their practices when they came to Columbus, and had the opportunity to watch such coaches as Knight and Michigan State's Jud Heathcote ply their trades.
After that first season, VanDerveer received an offer from Marianne Stanley at Old Dominion, a position that came with a $15,000 salary. For VanDerveer, who had worked on a volunteer basis her first year in Columbus, the money was tempting. But she decided that she wanted to continue at Ohio State and get her Master's degree, so she signed on for a second year with the Buckeyes as the junior varsity head coach and assistant varsity coach, for $3,500.
"I worked at the recreation center at six in the morning. I was on food stamps. One year I lived for free, a friend offered me a place to live in a trailer. But I was happy," VanDerveer reflected about her first stint in Columbus. "My fees were waived, and I didn't have to pay out-of-state fees. (I didn't take the job at ODU because) I wanted to finish and get my Master's from Ohio State. I felt committed. It was a two-year program and I'd also been working there, so they came up with $3,500 because I'd made nothing the year before except for what I could get in the rec center."
Her first head coaching job came following graduation from Ohio State in 1978, as VanDerveer took over the reins at University of Idaho, then a Division II program. The program had gone 26-47 over its first four seasons and enjoyed just one winning season. Immediately VanDerveer's influence was seen, as the Vandals went 17-8 in 1978-79, setting a new program record for wins.
Things went even better in the second, and what would end up being the final year of VanDerveer's time in Moscow. The Vandals won 12 of their first 13 games, and went 10-2 in the Northwest Empire League. After three victories at the NCWSA Regionals, VanDerveer guided Idaho to its first AIAW Division II Nationals. There, the Vandals' season came to an end with an 84-81 loss to Cal State Los Angeles, ending the year with a 25-6 record.
Another milestone in VanDerveer's career was reached that season, as her coaching produced the first two All-America players in Idaho history. Willette White was named to the AIAW All-America Second Team, while Denise Brose earned All-America honorable mention.
With a two-year record of 42-14 at Idaho, VanDerveer had quickly established herself as a rising star in the coaching circles. Following the 1979-80 season, VanDerveer would decide to leave Moscow and make her return to Columbus, beginning the new decade in the familiar scarlet and gray of The Ohio State University.