Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinal Rules Stanford Coach Comes Back to Be `Part of the Fun'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinal Rules Stanford Coach Comes Back to Be `Part of the Fun'

Article excerpt

Stanford basketball coach Tara VanDerveer played hooky.

For a year, VanDerveer coached the national women's basketball team. And when she returned to class at Stanford, she came bearing a note with a good excuse: an Olympic gold medal. Still, she missed the team she molded.

"I want to be part of the fun the team had last season," said VanDerveer, whose Cardinal made it to the Final Four in her absence. Well, the beat goes on. The Cardinal is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Little wonder. Ten players are back, including defensive stopper Charmin Smith (Ladue). All five starters return: guards Smith and Jamila Wideman, preseason All-America forward Kate Starbird, forward Vanessa Nygaard and center Olympia Scott. (Smith has been replaced in the starting lineup by 6-foot-3 Naomi Mulitauaopele to bolster Stanford's rebounding, but Smith contributes a steady 15 minutes a game.) Starbird, who averages 19.3 points and five assists this season, is "a highlight film - one of the very few players I'd pay money to watch," VanDerveer said. Alabama coach Rick Moody has seen enough of the Cardinal recently to believe that "Stanford is loaded to the gills." Stanford beached the Crimson Tide in the West Regional semifinals of last season's NCAA Tournament. Alabama came into this season ranked No. 2 in the preseason but lost 74-65 to the Cardinal in its opener Nov. 17. But Stanford may be swimming against the current in December. It plays San Francisco on Sunday; No. 4 Tennessee on Dec. 15; No. 6 Old Dominion on Dec. 17 and No. 17 Colorado on Dec. 28. All four advanced to last season's NCAA Tournament. Tennessee is defending champ. No one can accuse the Cardinal of ducking the competition. Local Line: Huff Hall will be rocking when Southwest Missouri State (2-1), the top women's basketball program in the region, plays rebuilding Illinois (3-2) Tuesday at Champaign. SECond To None: Stanford occupies the top rung in the AP poll, but the basketball-rich Southeastern Conference can claim a stranglehold. Seven SEC teams are in the Top 25, including the usual suspects: Tennessee, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Tennessee bounced Georgia 83-65 in last season's NCAA championship game. The Tide, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss also advanced to the tournament. How strong is the SEC? Conference coaches have the audacity to think they are penalized, come NCAA Tournament time, for being so good. They believe a couple of other SEC teams deserved to make the tournament last season. Lamented Arkansas' Gary Blair, whose team had 21 wins: "Teams seven through 10 in our conference had good seasons and stayed home. It wasn't a pleasant summer around my house. We've just got to make sure it doesn't happen again." Second Chance: Marianne Stanley, let go following the 1992-'93 season by Southern Cal after filing a sex discrimination suit, has landed on her feet. …

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