Two coaches, 1000 wins

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One thousand. The word itself likely was originally part of a compound meaning “a great multitude.” Going even further, first elements of the word have roots in meanings to include “strong, force” which is quite fitting considering there were only 8 total coaches in all of NCAA basketball history that have collected 1000 wins in their career. Were stood correct until January 17, 2018. Word on the street is that the list is subject to grow even longer sometime this year. But we’ll get into that in a bit. Congratulations Barbara Stevens. This is your tape.

“Bardy” Stevens came up during a time where being known as a female athlete came with a stigma that was embarrassing, shameful. So much so that in college, she captained & ran the point for Bridgewater State College before completing two years as a softball player & two more as a tennis player, earning captain rank between those lines as well. Needless to say, Stevens isn’t someone who allows her story to be measured or manipulated by others. Looking back, it’s no wonder she’s spent 40 years in coaching.

In those 40 years, Coach Stevens has achieved plenty:

  • 5-time (‘92, ’99, ’01, ’13, ’14)  WBCA National Coach of the Year (D-II)
  • 2002 Carol Eckman Award
  • 2002 New England Basketball Hall of Fame
  • 2006 Women’s basketball Hall of Fame
  • 2006 Clark University Hall of Fame

Yet, I still believe there’s no coincidence that in her first head coaching stop at UMass, Stevens crossed paths with the name many consider the greatest ever: Geno Auriemma. Prior to UConn’s establishment as a superpower, Geno was a first-year head coach too. They matched up in his seventh game & UConn ended up getting the win. Now 35 years later, the coaches are in the same class, 1 of 9 with 1000 career wins. Congratulations to Coach Barbara Stevens of the Bentley Falcons.

 John Munson/The Star-Ledger

John Munson/The Star-Ledger

Now, if you hop on I-95S & travel about 4.5 hours, you’ll find yourself in Piscataway, New Jersey, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and since 1995, stomping grounds of the legendary C. Vivian Stringer. The first coach in men’s or women’s basketball history to take three separate schools (Cheyney State ’82, Iowa ’93, Rutgers ’00, ’07) to the Final Four, Stringer is the definition of a pioneer. Six wins shy of 1000, upon her completion of said milestone the list will soon read like a who’s who, a Mount Rushmore of basketball genius:

Pat Summitt -Tennessee: (1098-208)
Tara Vanderveer-Ohio State, Stanford: (1018-235)
Mike Krzyzewski-Duke: (1082-330)
Harry Statham-McKendree (NAIA): (1117-499)
Herb Magee-Philadelphia University: (1053-417)
Danny Miles-Oregon Tech: (1040-437)
Geno Auriemma-Connecticut: (1010-135)
Sylvia Hatchell-Francis Marion, North Carolina: (1000-377)
Barbara Stevens-Clark University, UMASS, Bentley: (1000-25)

But on a personal level, the poppington melanin, the flyest shades you ever did see & her poised yet pointed response to ignorance carelessly lofted in the direction of her players after Don Imus’ infamous & ignorant rant about her ’07 team, illustrated just how much Stringer means to the progression of basketball in general & explicitly women’s basketball. The first African American coach to win 900 games, she will be the first to win 1000. The Black Coaches Association awards its annual Coach of the Year honor in Stringer’s name. The epitome of giving someone their flowers while they’re here. & deservedly so.

Yet, when you get the rare chance to see the eyes behind those shades, you see that the passion is still there. The drive. Every name listed above carries heavy characteristics of a type-A personality. They have to. 1000 wins is peak insanity. Going to basketball practice every single day & finding a way to get excited about a group of kids who may or may not know what they want to accomplish, if anything that day. Rest assured, when they’re done. You’ll know it. Here’s Stringer after a conference game in December:

Needless to say, her passion is still there. Just like every other name on this list, these pioneers have already left their mark on this beautiful art we strive to push forward daily.  I thank you for setting the bar for myself & my peers to push even higher. I hope we make you proud.