C. Vivian Stringer is among several notables who will be recognized in Nike’s Black History Collection this year. Stringer, who’s in her 44th overall season as a women’s basketball coach, and others are being honored “for positively impacting sport with their courage and determination,” according to a Rutgers University press release earlier this month.
Other honorees are retired Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson, retired NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice, track and field athlete Brianna Rollins, Ghana national soccer team member Kevin-Prince Boateng, and California skateboarder Theotis Beasley.
Now in her 20th season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach was first honored by
the worldwide shoe company in 2008 when Nike named its second child development center in Beaverton, Oregon after Stringer. The 35,000-square-foot facility serves nearly 300 preschool children ranging in age from six months to five years in care, learning and development needs.
A couple of weeks ago, Stringer talked to the MSR about her latest honor after her team played at the University of Wisconsin.
“I didn’t have any idea” of her inclusion in the Nike collection, admitted the Hall of Fame coach. She did remember when Nike Founder Phil Knight nearly a decade ago contacted her about the early childhood facility. “I didn’t say anything,” continued Stringer. “He said, ‘You know, that’s the first time you haven’t been able to say anything.’”
If that happened, it would be one of the rare times Stringer is caught speechless — she is a reporter’s dream who easily can fill up a notebook. “I didn’t know what to say,” she remembered.
To list her legendary accomplishments, let’s look at the numbers: Over 900 wins and counting; 35 times named coach of the year, including receiving the honor five times in one season, 1993; 25 NCAA appearances, nine NCAA regional finals, four Final Fours.
Her life has been documented both in print (Standing Tall, A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, a 2008 best seller) and cinema (the 2003 Emmy-nominated It’s a Game, Ladies, which featured former Minneapolis North star Mauri Horton, and “Coach” on ESPN Films’ Nine for IX features series).
Howard University, Iowa, and Mount Ida College awarded her honorary doctorates, and she was listed in Sports Illustrated’s “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports” in 2003. Her Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in 2009 still ranks as one of the most eloquent ever delivered by an inductee.
What isn’t often talked about is the Stringer’s “coaching tree” — the number of former players and assistant coaches who have moved into head coaching positions after either playing or coaching for her. “Believe me, a lot — I’ve had a lot of coaches,” she noted.
“I’ve had some who have coached in the Big East, Big Ten and wherever. “I’ve always had my former players who worked with me.”
Stringer quickly pointed to such programs as Tennessee and Connecticut that don’t turn over staff very much. It’s that continuity she strives for as well at Rutgers, where she has been at the helm for 20 seasons.
“When you noticed with the teams that are successful, those assistants are there. That is something we have been having as well. Generally my assistants stay [on her staff] 10, sometimes 12, 13 years, which is one of the reasons why we were successful over the years.
“It’s nice when we go on the road and recruit, and then I see my [former] players who are now [high school] coaches,” said Stringer. “I continue to be grateful.”
Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” passed away last week at age 83.
“As a Hall of Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including [First Lady] Michelle, who when she was a girl used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV,” wrote President Barack Obama, who presented Banks in 2013 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.