Tara VanDerveer becomes winningest women’s basketball coach

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STOCKTON, Calif. — Tara VanDerveer made history, and then took a moment to tell her Stanford players what they mean to her.

“The most important thing I can do as a coach is love you,” VanDerveer said. “I love the game of basketball and I want to help you be the best you can be. You’re the people that I care about. Thank you.”

Typical Tara, wanting to share the joy on a night when the spotlight shined brightly on her – and her alone.

VanDerveer became the winningest women’s college basketball coach Tuesday night, passing the late Pat Summitt with her 1,099th victory as No. 1 Stanford romped to a 104-61 victory over Pacific.

Dressed casually in all black, VanDerveer received the game ball after the final buzzer. Her dancing players chanted “Tara! Tara!” and gave her a new oversized pullover reading “T-DAWG” to celebrate the latest milestone for the Hall of Fame coach in her 35th season on The Farm and 42nd overall as a college head coach. The wearable blanket was forward Francesca Belibi’s idea.

“It’s really sweet,” VanDerveer said.

The 67-year-old VanDerveer improved her career record to 1,099-253. The road to this historic night began with her first head coaching job at the University of Idaho from 1978-80, and then moved to Ohio State (1980-85) and Stanford, where she is 947-202. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma is right behind at 1,093 wins.

“This is special because of the magnitude of that many wins,” VanDerveer said. “You never go into coaching, I never thought, `Well, I’m going to try to win 1,000 games’ or anything like that. This is special, currently having the No. 1 team, being undefeated, playing in a pandemic, I will never forget this, for sure.”

After the history-making win in a draped-off area upstairs that served as Stanford’s locker room, VanDerveer received a plaque containing a piece of the floor from Stanford’s home court at Maples Pavilion. A framed proclamation from Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine was another memento. White long-sleeved shirts commemorating the night were made for the players as well as hand-held confetti poppers and individual mini cakes with an attached sticker that read, “Tara at the top.” Silver balloons with the numbers 1,099 adorned the room.

Just as the humble VanDerveer prefers, she broke Summitt’s mark going largely under the radar and with little fanfare given the game took place in California’s Central Valley – about 80 miles from the Bay Area. No fans were allowed into Spanos Center, either.

“I really hope Pat Summitt is looking down and saying, `Good job Tara, keep it going,”‘ VanDerveer said. “I loved coaching against Pat, and we miss her.”

Tennessee women’s basketball posted a photo of VanDerveer and Summitt on Twitter and a message that read: “1099. Pat would be proud. Congratulations, Coach VanDerveer!”

“We were friends and obviously competitors,” VanDerveer said. “She had great passion for the game and I think she sees that with me. She loves unselfish basketball which I think she would see with our team. More than anything she helped me get better as a coach because you had to work really hard to prepare. We lost more games than we won against Tennessee. She was a great mentor and a great friend. I think she would be proud of us.”

Stanford (5-0) couldn’t play a home game with the Tigers on Nov. 29 because of a positive coronavirus test in the Pacific program and then again Tuesday because of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County that sent the Cardinal on the road for three weeks. It spent much of that stretch in Las Vegas before traveling to Berkeley to play California in a Sunday night game, when VanDerveer tied Summitt’s record.

“I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We’re living in a hotel,” senior Kiana Williams said. “It’s not ideal but we have more time to spend together.”

Traveling from Berkeley on Tuesday, Stanford wound up getting caught in traffic due to an accident that delayed the Cardinal’s arrival at the arena by 30 minutes.

It hardly mattered.

Anna Wilson got Stanford off to a fast start with an opening four-point play.

“That’s why I came to Stanford, I wanted to be coached by a winner,” Wilson said. “Even in this challenge of being in the middle of quarantine and having to deal with all these adjustments, she’s done a really great job of being here for us and providing the very best that we can experience during this time.”

VanDerveer thanked her parents and family.

“Hi Mom! Don’t cry, Mom,” VanDerveer instructed mother Rita, who was watching on TV. “It’s happy.”

GIVING HEART

VanDerveer planned to donate $10 for each of her wins – $10,990 – to local food banks.

“We’re playing games and we know people are really suffering, they don’t have jobs, their unemployment is running out, they’re hungry, so I’m so thankful for my job and my opportunity that I just want to make sure I’m giving back,” she said.

FROM ONE COACH TO ANOTHER

David Shaw, Stanford’s 10th-year football coach, considers VanDerveer among the best ever in any sport, at any level – man or woman.

“I’ve said it over and over again, I think Tara VanDerveer is one of the best coaches of any sport on this planet because of her ability to change and to cater to the abilities of her athletes at the same time giving them a standard that is necessary for them to grow and to reach their peak,” Shaw said earlier Tuesday.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry offered a video shoutout on Twitter.

BIG PICTURE

Stanford: Being 5-0 is impressive enough. Doing it while basically being nomads and having to stay away from home so long is even more so. The Cardinal didn’t let the emotions of the night get in the way and shot the ball efficiently most of the game.

Pacific: The Tigers made their season debut after having their first four games canceled due to Covid-19. They hung tough with the top-ranked Cardinal before eventually wearing down.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal resume Pac-12 play at Southern California on Saturday.

Pacific: The Tigers play LSU on Saturday as part of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops tournament.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.