Stanford Coach Defined by ‘Sustained Excellence’

The headline reminded us about how Magnifying Excellence Season 1 guest and baseball hall of famer Greg Maddux defined Excellence. More on this definition later, but the recent headlined that grabbed my attention was, “Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer defined by sustained excellence.” Here’s why. –By Brian Hurlburt, Magnifying Excellence Podcast host.

Maddux’ definition of Excellence embodied the headline.

“I think Excellence is doing something good for a long period of time,” said Maddux. “It turns into excellence, especially in a baseball as a pitcher. All you could do is make a good pitch and you try to make one good pitch one after the other. And if you do it enough times in a row, I think it becomes excellence.”

Maddux would appreciate the “sustained excellence” of VanDerveer, who became the all-time leader in Division I women’s basketball with her 1,099th win, passing Pat Summitt, the late and Excellent Tennessee head coach. The Cardinal defeated Pacific 104-61 to give VanDerveer the record.


The number of victories puts her in the spotlight now, where she deserves to be. But that isn’t where she is most comfortable, and the victories are not what defines her. Neither, for that matter, are the national championships. Stanford hasn’t won it all since 1992, despite 10 subsequent trips to the Final Four.

“They’ve come so close so many times. All of us are tuned in, and we couldn’t be rooting any harder,” said Christy Hedgpeth, Stanford alumnae and WNBA chief operating officer. “But the sustained Excellence is incredible. Returning to the Final Four, graduating players, innovating the game — all these things, I feel like, are still a little underappreciated.”

VanDerveer was humble as she passed the record.

“They really wanted to win for me,” VanDerveer said in a Stanford press release. “I felt it the whole game. I felt it on the bus ride here. I want to be a coach that our players want as a coach. I want to be someone that they want to play hard for, that they want to work hard for, and they want to please. That’s my goal all the time, to be a great coach for them. The people in the locker room, I’m really excited that they were excited and happy for me. That’s who I work for.

“I really hope that Pat Summitt is looking down saying, ‘Way to go Tara, keep it going. She helped me get better as a coach. She was a great mentor and a great friend. I’m sure she would be proud of us.”

VanDerveer has coached Stanford to two national championships, 12 NCAA Final Four appearances, 22 Pac-12 regular-season titles, 13 Pac-12 Tournament crowns and 31 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

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