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Why this colleague said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer’s ‘secret sauce’ is her humility

Utah’s Lynne Roberts weighed in on what makes the winningest coach in NCAA college basketball history so special

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Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer reacts to seeing former player Ros Gold-Onwude in the crowd before playing Oregon State.

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer reacts to seeing former player Ros Gold-Onwude in the crowd before a women’s basketball game at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Conn., on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. The Cardinal victory gave VanDerveer the career wins lead with 1,203, passing Mike Krzyzewski.

Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle via Associated Press

Earlier this week, one of the icons of women’s college basketball, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, was in the national spotlight again for a historic moment.

When the Cardinal beat Oregon State 65-56 on Sunday, that gave the Hall of Fame coach 1,203 victories in her career, moving VanDerveer past former Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski to become the winningest coach in NCAA college basketball history, as the Deseret News previously reported.  

“She makes it about her players, she makes it about her staff, she makes it about Stanford. She gives credit to the other team. She’s just a class act. And you know, I think we all could take a page from that.” — Utah coach Lynne Roberts, on Tara VanDerveer

VanDerveer, who’s in her 38th season as Stanford’s head coach and also coached at Idaho and Ohio State, has won three national championships in her coaching career. She’s also led 14 teams to the Final Four, won 25 Pac-10/12 regular-season titles, made 37 NCAA tournament appearances and won 98 NCAA tournament games. 

Praise for VanDerveer and the program she has built has poured in this week, including from Utah women’s coach Lynne Roberts, who’s worked in the Pac-12 Conference alongside VanDerveer for the past nine seasons.

“I think the one thing that I really admire and take from her and try to implement is just her humility. It’s never about her. And I think that’s her secret sauce,” Roberts said. 

“She makes it about her players, she makes it about her staff, she makes it about Stanford. She gives credit to the other team. She’s just a class act. And you know, I think we all could take a page from that.”

During Pac-12 media day in October, VanDerveer complimented the program Roberts is building in Utah. 

“She’s done a fantastic job and she has an incredibly talented team,” VanDerveer told the Deseret News about Roberts. “I picked them (to win in the coaches poll) last year — because you know, you can’t pick yourself — and they did really, really well.

“Kudos to Lynne and her staff. They play what I call beautiful basketball. They are fun to watch.”

During Pac-12 media day, another league coach, Colorado’s JR Payne, talked about the impact that VanDerveer has had on the sport.

“I think people like Tara VanDerveer, people that have coached women’s college basketball at a high level for a really long time, opened doors for people like me,” Payne told the Deseret News.

“It set the stage for young women that are playing right now in the Pac-12. There’s nothing anybody could do to ever erase the success that has happened in this conference.”

Utah Utes head coach Lynne Roberts yells out instructions as Utah and BYU women play at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. Utah won 87-68.

Utah Utes head coach Lynne Roberts yells out instructions as Utah and BYU women play at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. Utah won 87-68.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News