All good things eventually come to an end in life.
Among those good things that do eventually come to an end are basketball careers – whether they are as players or as coaches. While ball may consume us for much of the time we are involved in the sport, we know eventually there will be a time where we have to place away the uniform and round leather ball for good.
Or in the case of one of Rutgers’ most noteworthy figures – the coach’s whistle.
A few days ago, it was announced that C. Vivian Stringer, longtime legendary women’s basketball coach with the Scarlet Knights, will has retired from her post in Piscataway. Stringer first became the coach at Rutgers in 1995.
While Stringer will be most remembered for what she accomplished as the coach at Rutgers, she also had previous coaching stints as well. Stringer had a coaching gig mostly in the 1970s with Cheyney State before moving on to Iowa in the 1980s.
The impact that Stringer had on Black women in coaching must particularly be acknowledged. Before there was Dawn Staley, Joni Taylor and Adia Barnes there was Stringer – and a great bit of her coaching career occurred prior to there being a WNBA.
When thinking about the pantheon of coaches at the women’s college basketball level, several names can come to mind. Geno Auriemma, Pat Summitt, Kay Yow, Sylvia Hatchell and Tara VanDerveer are simply a few of the noteworthy coaches who have left an indelible imprint on the game. Any conversation of the Mount Rushmore of women’s college basketball coaches must include Stringer or it is a conversation barely worth entertaining.
What perhaps made Stringer even more of a legendary figure is that she accomplished the success she had while also overcoming a great deal of personal heartbreak. In her “Standing Tall” book that she released in 2008, she recalled how she was on her way to a speaking engagement in Iowa and had to drive through a snowstorm in order to make it to the venue.
This was not too long after her husband had died and she felt because of the circumstances that she would not make it to the speaking engagement.
Stringer was late, but she had a gracious audience waiting on her anyway.
The 2008 book release also came not too far after another controversy that not only affected her but the Rutgers team as well. In early 2007, as the Scarlet Knights were making a run in that year’s NCAA tournament, a New York City-based radio host made sexist and racist comments about the team shortly after one of his co-hosts read a news report about the team’s performance in the tournament. Rutgers lost in the national championship game that year to the Lady Vols of Tennessee.
Eventually the shock jock, who died a few years ago, was fired from both the radio station he was on – WFAN 660 – and the national news channel that simulcasted his radio show at the time – MSNBC.
Given everything Stringer overcame to achieve the level of success she did over such a long period of time, plus being a Black woman, it only enhances her story. In addition, there is a who’s who of current Rutgers alums that are now WNBA talents that owe much of their careers to being under Stringer’s tutelage.
Those include Cappie Pondexter, 2019 WNBA All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler, Epiphanny Prince, last year’s WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney who now hoops not too far from the Rutgers campus at Barclays Center with the New York Liberty.
In either men’s or women’s basketball, only six coaches have reached the 1,000-win plateau. Stringer is one of the coaches and we at Beyond The W had the privilege of being on hand for when she made history once again.
At 74 years old, Stringer has given more than her fair share to the game that has had a major part in shaping who she is as a coach and as a Black woman. From what she accomplished at Rutgers to how she was a former assistant coach at USA Basketball, Stringer is a legendary figure whose impact on basketball extends far beyond the New Jersey state line.
Her retirement will be effective in September and whoever takes Stringer’s place will have big shoes to fill. The court at Jersey Mike’s Arena will be renamed in her honor. And generations of future Rutgers students will be hearing and telling stories about Stringer and how she changed the game for the Scarlet Knights and for the sport at large.
C. Vivian Stringer. Black queen. Icon. Legend. GOAT.