Tara VanDerveer, Dawn Staley renew acquaintances | NCAA women's tournament
On Saturday night, coach Tara VanDerveer's top-seeded Stanford team will face coach Dawn Staley's fifth-seeded South Carolina team in an NCAA regional-semifinal game. VanDerveer was the coach and Staley was a guard on the U.S. team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal.
FRESNO, Calif. — Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer recalls how during Dawn Staley's playing days at Virginia she wore a rubber band on her right wrist and snapped it each time she committed a turnover.
VanDerveer remembers how much she enjoyed coaching the ultracompetitive Staley on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Atlanta. VanDerveer told it straight, and that is what motivated the tough Staley, who grew up honing her game on Philadelphia playgrounds.
"When Tara found out we were playing South Carolina, she was ecstatic," Stanford sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike said. "She was like, 'Yeah, we're playing Dawn Staley's crew!' "
On Saturday night, VanDerveer's top-seeded Cardinal (33-1) will face Staley's fifth-seeded South Carolina team (25-9) in the NCAA tournament's Fresno Regional semifinals — with Stanford looking to extend its school-record 30-game winning streak and take another step toward reaching a fifth consecutive Final Four.
"Coaching Dawn was just awesome. I loved coaching her," VanDerveer said Friday. "She's a competitor more than anything else."
The Gamecocks played at Stanford last season, and Staley invited VanDerveer to the visiting locker room to give her players a pep talk after a 70-32 Cardinal victory.
VanDerveer, who is in her 26th season at Stanford, took a season away from the school to coach the U.S. Olympians in 1996.
"Tara had a way of looking at basketball and seeing it played a certain way," said Staley, adding she learned from VanDerveer "to be more than just a player and build relationships. You learn all those little intangible things ... that made me one of the best point guards to play the game.
"Definitely Tara was one of those coaches who was really honest — she'll bring you to tears with her honesty. It fueled me."
Stanford and the Virginia team featuring Staley each reached three consecutive Final Fours from 1990 to 1992, with the Cardinal beating Staley in the NCAA semifinals on the way to its titles in 1990 and '92.
Of Staley's South Carolina players, VanDerveer said, "They play much better defense than she did. Dawn is incredibly competitive, to the point she has amnesia.
"We used to play chess together and she will say how she beat me, and I'll say, 'No, Dawn.' Her team is so competitive."
• Host James Madison routed South Florida 72-45 in a Women's National Invitation Tournament third-round game. The Dukes (27-7) will play visiting Virginia (25-10) in a WNIT quarterfinal game Sunday.
Guard Tarik Hislop led James Madison with 17 points.