Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer influences so many coaches

Mar 20, 2016 - 8:59 PM STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Three seasons ago before a Thanksgiving Day tournament game in Puerto Vallarta, Tara VanDerveer surprised and impressed Aaron Johnston with her knowledge of his South Dakota State team - and his state in general.

From the complex issues such as struggles facing the Native American communities, to the finer details about the Jackrabbits program she hardly needed to know.

''She was just kind of aware of some of the challenges that go into some of those Native American communities and had a genuine sense of wanting to help if she could,'' Johnston recalled Sunday. ''That's a neat thing. It was fun. She's always been very outgoing, really cordial and she really has no reason to be toward us, so it's nice.''

Not that VanDerveer will be so friendly come tipoff Monday night, when her fourth-seeded Cardinal (25-7) take their home floor in Maples Pavilion to face No. 12 seed South Dakota State (26-6) for a berth in the Lexington Regional.

Just take the 30th-year, Hall of Fame coach's remarks from Saturday night after beating her former Stanford and Olympic star Jennifer Azzi: ''I love Jennifer but I love winning more.''

She did take time to pose for photos with some Jackrabbits fans Saturday.

''I like to get to know and to understand where they're coming from and the style they play,'' VanDerveer said Sunday, noting she has driven through South Dakota and stopped at the Black Hills.

The 62-year-old VanDerveer's thoughtfulness with colleagues she knows well and those she doesn't, with coaches near and far, is one thing. Her ability to evolve and adjust her style over three successful decades in this game is another thing Johnston admires.

''It's just so unusual in this day in age. There are other coaches like Tara but not as many it seems like who have coached for that long and have been at one place and have adjusted with just the changing flow of basketball,'' Johnston said before his team headed to practice. ''What they do now is very different than what they did even a short period ago. To have the courage to make those kind of changes as a coach, go outside of your comfort zone just says a lot about how she continues to evolve and lead us all in adapting to the different way basketball is played right now.''

Several of the current South Dakota State players were part of that 80-60 loss to a Stanford team led by Chiney Ogwumike.

''We are a completely different team than we were two years ago. Definitely looking forward to the opportunity to play them again,'' senior guard Gabby Boever said. ''I'm just playing like it's my last game. That's how I always have to play.''

Stanford understands that philosophy.

Two weeks ago, Stanford shockingly got bounced by Washington in its Pac-12 tournament opener. Lili Thompson and her teammates realized right away how quickly a season can change.

The Cardinal will keep that in mind taking the court Monday night.

''For me the biggest thing you take is that one and done,'' Thompson said. ''This is the real deal. We have to earn every game that we want to play.''

Stanford did most everything right in Saturday's 85-58 rout of San Francisco, from a 49-22 rebounding advantage to shooting 51.7 percent and scoring 18 second-chance points.

VanDerveer is challenging her team to do more.

''You better come out ready and you better know what you're doing against them,'' VanDerveer said. ''They play with a purpose.''

The Jackrabbits already knocked out No. 5 Miami on Saturday despite struggling against full-court pressure, missing free throws late and committing 22 turnovers.

''It puts us on the map. Teams that are ranked higher can't overlook us,'' Summit League defensive player of the year Clarissa Ober said.

Johnston does have one special request for VanDerveer:

''I hope she doesn't take any of our good players. We need them all,'' he said of a roster made up all of women from Minnesota and South Dakota except for one. ''She's got enough of her own.''

Sorry, VanDerveer won't commit.

''If someone has the grades and they're that good we're going after them, it doesn't matter where they're from,'' she said.


South Dakota State: advanced to the second round for the first time since 2009 after losing its previous five NCAA openers.

Stanford: The Cardinals is 33-4 playing at home in the NCAA Tournament. Maples Pavilion has hosted more women's tournament games - 65 on Monday - than any other venue aside from Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena (66). ... VanDerveer needs 22 victories to join Pat Summitt as the only NCAA women's basketball coaches with 1,000 career wins.

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