Inductee VanDerveer feels right at home
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- To the place where she spent her holidays as a child, the place where her parents met and fell in love, Tara VanDerveer returned Friday night to accept the highest individual honor of her long coaching career.
"I am from here," VanDerveer said Friday night as she was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
VanDerveer was escorted to the Symphony Hall stage by former Texas coach Jody Conradt, one of the five Division I women's head coaches -- along with VanDerveer -- who has more than 800 career victories.
VanDerveer quoted from author Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book "Outliers" in her speech, citing his theory that successful people are built from "heritage, patronage, opportunity, 10,000 hours of practice and legacy."
VanDerveer, who grew up in upstate New York, has deep roots in the birthplace of basketball. Her mother, Rita, was born in the southern Massachusetts city, her parents met while students at Springfield College and her grandfather was the city's recreation director.
VanDerveer, 58, was surrounded by family and friends for her enshrinement weekend. All four of her younger siblings made the trip along with her mother. She was also reunited with cousins and nieces and nephews who still live in the area.
She called it "serendipity."
"I've been at the right place at the right time," VanDerveer said. "You never know where your life takes you."
She was at the right place as a student at Indiana when Bob Knight was creating his legend. She was at Ohio State when (now fellow) Hall of Famer Fred Taylor was there. She arrived at Stanford in time to watch Pete Newell run his famous Big Man Camps in the gym at Maples Pavilion. She said she would hang around until Newell was forced to take her out to Chinese food and spend hours with her diagramming plays.
"I was able to watch a lot, and I think it has helped my coaching," VanDerveer said. "I have been given great opportunities to study the game."
And study she did. VanDerveer, who led the U.S. team to an Olympic gold medal in 1996 and has won two NCAA titles, is known as one of the most detail-oriented, meticulous coaches, which has helped keep her at the top of her game, having led the Cardinal to four straight Final Four appearances.
VanDerveer joked that she reached her 10,000 hours of practice long, long ago. "I love practice," VanDerveer said. "I don't know if my players love it as much."
On Thursday night, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said that it had been only a matter of time before VanDerveer, who has become perhaps his chief coaching rival in collegiate women's basketball, was inducted.
"I don't think it's any surprise," Auriemma said. "There are a lot of people already in the Hall of Fame that don't have her résumé. Even though she didn't get in there first, she's going to be one of the first people mentioned."
Stanford assistant coaches Amy Tucker and Kate Paye made the trip, as did a collection of former Stanford players including Sonja Henning and Vanessa Nygaard. VanDerveer's seventh-grade coach from Albany, Barbara Palma, was in the audience as well.
"She's got her Stanford family, kids, all behind her cheering for her," said former Cardinal All-American Jayne Appel, who was playing with her WNBA team, the San Antonio Silver Stars, down the road in Uncasville, Conn., on Thursday night. "For us, it's rewarding for us that the person who taught us how to work hard be rewarded."
VanDerveer said that she hopes that another young girl will go to Springfield and the Hall of Fame over Thanksgiving weekend, as she did as a young girl, and be inspired to pursue her own hoop dreams.
At the end, VanDerveer simply thanked the Hall "for honoring my life's work."