Second of two parts
In addition to her 2004 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction and 2001 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, C. Vivian Stringer’s many accomplishments include:
Third women’s coach to record 750, 800, and 850 wins; fourth coach and seventh all-time (men’s or women’s) coach to register 900 wins; fifth women’s coach to reach 1,000 career wins, and fifth all-time in wins (all divisions) with 1,055 victories. Stringer’s teams were the nation’s best defensively (1981, 1983, and 1993) and second-best (1985, 2005, 2006, and 2008).
What hasn’t been lauded is her coaching tree. A coaching tree is similar to a family tree showing the relationships of coaches. For example, a coach who worked as an assistant on an HC’s staff for at least a season would be counted as a “branch” on the head coach’s coaching tree.
Coaching trees too often refer to NFL and college coaches, and mostly male coaches in general. Rarely are such references applied to Black women coaches, especially such a legendary one as Stringer, who announced her retirement a couple of weeks ago after 50 years.
Chelsea Newton is a proud branch on the Stringer coaching tree. The current Texas A&M associate women’s basketball coach played for Stringer at Rutgers (2001-05) and later coached on her staff (2010-2015).
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“I tell you Coach Stringer is the sole reason I am coaching,” the Monroe, La. native told the MSR. “I had no desire to coach.” Even while she was still playing as a pro (WNBA and overseas), Stringer kept insisting that Newton look at coaching as a post-athletic career. She did briefly and worked as a director of player development at Rutgers during its NCAA runners-up season in 2006-07.
“As I was playing, every single year Coach Stringer would call and say, ‘Hey, are you ready to coach?’ recalled Newton. “Literally every time I would come home, ‘Are you ready to coach?’ asked Stringer. I’m like, no.”
Newton finally gave in and Stringer hired her as an assistant coach (2010-2015). She later moved on to Georgia and now Texas A&M, developing a reputation nationally as a top developer and recruiter of talent. Newton has coached 14 future WNBA players and has helped sign 13 top-100 prospects and six top-20 recruits.
Once her former coach announced her intention to retire on April 30, Newton shared with us her thoughts: “To be a part of such a legacy and to play for a coach, to work with her at the moment, at the time when you are aware that she was a legend. She is a legend,” the Texas A&M associate coach proudly declared. She said a co-worker once told her that playing for or coaching with Stringer, “You earned a Ph.D. in basketball, pretty much learned every aspect from the offensive standpoint and defensive standpoint.
“When you watch her from a coach, a mother, and just a woman in this business in America,” continued Newton, “you see all the things that she went through and the things that she will fight for on the court. She taught you to stand up for yourself, and she taught you to keep persevering and keep fighting.”
Asked about her place on Stringer’s coaching tree, Newton surmised, “There are probably so many more [branches] that we just don’t even know about that are just involved in some aspect of the game.”
“It was more than basketball. Her purpose was just far more than winning games. I pray that people all know that about her career.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.