Just Keeps Winning and Winning and ... Rutgers University Coach Continues to Make History

By Chappell, Kevin | Ebony, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Just Keeps Winning and Winning and ... Rutgers University Coach Continues to Make History


Chappell, Kevin, Ebony


SHE has been called everything from "the master builder of basketball programs" to one of the "101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports."

But walk into C. Vivian Stringer's office at Rutgers University and the first thing you notice is not the championship banners that decorate the wall, or the game balls, or the Hall of Fame references, or the indicators of Olympic triumphs.

On this day, Stringer's accomplishments during more than three decades of coaching women's collegiate basketball is lost amid the maze of white tape strategically placed on her office floor.

Has the woman who is so passionate about basketball that she routinely stays up much of the night looking at film of opponents begun drawing up plays on her office floor? No, it turns out the circles and squares are not her defensive strategy for the upcoming clash against rival Connecticut. It's the game plan for her office furniture. "I'm getting a new desk and bookcase," Stringer explains. "They tried to explain to me what it was going to look like. They even showed me pictures. But I can't visualize things unless there is something for me to physically see. So I had them outline it on the floor. Now looking at it, I'm not sure if I like it."

But while there may be questions about the placement of her office furniture, there is no questioning Stringer's place in basketball history. During her 33 years on the sidelines, she has been able to transform concepts into top-notch physical play. In the process, she has become the third-winningest coach in the history, of the sport, and the first person, male or female, to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four. She has led her teams to 17 NCAA tournament appearances, including six of the last seven years.

Stringer has been named National Coach of the Year three times, and served as assistant coach for the gold medal-winning 2004 U. S. Olympic Team. This season she became only the fourth women's coach to join the 700-win club. While she recognizes the importance of the accomplishment, she says she was confused initially. "I thought they were talking about Pat Robertson's 700 Club. I said, 'What?! When did I join that?!' That's how much I thought of 700 wins. But now there's so much talk about it that I have come to realize the importance of it."

Stringer rose to national prominence in 1982 when she coached little-known Cheyney State University to the Final Four, along the way beating much bigger and better-financed schools. In fact, the historically Black school was so small that it had virtually no budget, and the coaches had to cook meals for the players. She even went to a local church to collect money for jerseys. "You wore a lot of hats," she says. "But there was a sisterhood at Cheyney. We were one big happy family. We all felt as one."

She spent what she calls 11 "magical seasons" at Cheyney, serving as coach, teacher and mother-figure to the female students who came though her program. She left Cheyney in 1983 to pursue new coaching challenges at the University of Iowa. "I cried when I left," she says. "That's how much I missed it. I loved it with all of my heart and soul. I even missed the band. My God, they rocked that arena. It wasn't a full band ... just a couple drums and a bass. …

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