First of two parts
Hall of Fame Coach C. Vivian Stringer will retire in September after a half-century of coaching basketball. She amassed 1,055 wins, the most by any Black coach; four Final Four appearances; and 28 NCAA tournament berths at Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers, where she was that school’s longest-tenured coach.
In her announcement last Saturday in a released statement, Stringer said, “After recently celebrating the first women’s Final Four team at Cheyney State University, it sat with me that I have been at this for a long time. It is important to step aside and challenge others to step up and take this game forward.”
LeRoy McCarthy helped organize the 40th-anniversary gathering for the 1982 Cheyney State team that played for the first NCAA championship, the only HBCU school to do so. He told the MSR that after Stringer’s announcement, the school plans to erect a statue of her for its forthcoming new sports complex.
“Coincidentally,” he said, “the Coach Stringer statue plans have been in development by the alumni for some time. Coach Stringer will join Coach John Chaney with his statue at Cheyney.”
Twitter also honored Stringer’s 2001 Women’s Basketball and 2009 Naismith HOF career during which she touched countless lives through her coaching, leadership, mentorship and guidance. We received permission to use a couple of the remarks:
“The strength of your shoulders allowed us to stand tall. We will forever keep your legacy in our hearts,” from South Carolina HC Dawn Staley, whose team won the 2022 national title here in Minneapolis last month.
“Coach Stringer lightly recruited me when I was in HS,” from Minnesota Assistant Coach Yeshimbra “Shimmy” Gray-Miller. “I don’t think I was ever good enough to play for her, but early in the recruiting process we spoke on the phone and she wrote me a really nice follow-up note. She told me how important representation was for me a young Black girl.
“She was the first Black head coach I had ever seen or spoken to. I never forgot what she said.” Gray-Miller later told the MSR, “She was so good for our game and I am grateful for her.”
The MSR also spoke to several of Stringer’s former players:
“So grateful to God that I was chosen to be a part of greatness in women’s basketball having you for my Head Coach on and off the court,” said Dr. Freda Doxey, Cheyney Class of 1981.
“She will always be respected in the eyes of the thousands of hearts she has touched, and no one can take that away from her. Well done Coach and congratulations,” said Ann Strong.
“It was an honor and a blessing to be coached by Coach Stringer and Coach John Chaney. She has earned the right to be called one of the greatest women coaches!” said Aletha Blackman, Cheyney University (1976-80).
“Coach Stringer, you did as much as you could for as many as you could, for as long as you could. Thank you,” said Deb Walker, a member of Cheyney’s 1982 NCAA runners-up squad.
“The best decision I made in my entire basketball career was deciding to play for Coach Stringer at Cheyney State College,” said Valerie Walker, a two-time All American, Class of 1982. “She is the epitome of greatness, a leader and a true friend.”
Next week we’ll hear from a member of C. Vivian Stringer’s coaching tree.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.