A grand time for a grand dame

C. Vivian Stringer (center front in red) surrounded by family and friends
Photo by Charles Hallman

Piscataway, N.J. — It was an emotional day for all on Sunday, December 4 as Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer was enshrined on the court at Rutgers University during a dedication ceremony. The Scarlet Knights players, all of whom Stringer had recruited, wanted to play hard for their now-retired coach in their 2022-23 Big Ten season opener hosting Ohio State.

The 2,600-plus fans in attendance all came to wish the grand dame of women’s basketball coaches well as she moves into the retirement phase of her legendary life and career. Stringer joined the late Pat Summit and Kay Yow as former women’s coaches now with their school basketball court named for them.

“I walked into the arena and saw my signature on the court,” admitted Stringer to the crowd. “I was stunned. I can’t believe it. I want to thank my many great fans. Thank you so much,” she repeated when we personally congratulated her after her remarks.

The MSR also talked to several others who were in attendance Sunday:

Shane Gerald of Paterson, N.J. runs a local girls’ AAU basketball program. Among the over 500 mostly Black girls who have participated over the years are WNBA veterans Essence Carson and Atonia Bates, both of whom played for Stringer at Rutgers. “She’s a mother for dozens of players that came through her program,” said Gerald.

Valerie Walker was a member of Stringer’s 1982 Cheyney State NCAA runners-up team, which is still the first and only HBCU to play for an NCAA women’s basketball championship.  “It was a pleasure,” she said of those times. “I really enjoyed playing for her at Cheyney. When I saw her before the game, I thanked her for helping me not just to be an athlete but preparing me in my life. I love her to death.”

Delaware State Deputy AD Kyle Adams, who is strongly pushing for a documentary done on Stringer and the Cheyney team, also coached women’s basketball for 10 years. “I’m humbled and honored to be here,” he said. “Those women who played at Cheyney mean the world to me. Coach Stringer has had such an impact on me as a coach and what I wanted to be for young people.” 

Rutgers Coach Coquese Washington told the MSR, “I think one of the things that she passionately talks about to the Black female coaches around the country is encouraging us in supporting each other. She talks about starting out in coaching [when] she didn’t have a network, didn’t have a support system. She was by herself. 

“That’s one of the things that I will carry with me is making sure that I reach out and connect to our sisterhood so that we can support each other and be successful and keep this thing going and get our African American women into coaching.”

An all-Black coaching staff 

Washington, who was named Stringer’s successor last May, said of having an all-Black coaching staff, “I look at what Nikki McCray-Penson has done in the game of women’s basketball. What Tasha Pointer has done in the game of women’s basketball, and the same thing with John Hampton. I don’t know if I would have gotten a better coaching staff together.” 

Nikki McCray-Penson has 18 years of college coaching experience, including being a head coach at Mississippi State and Old Dominion. Pointer has similar coaching experience, including eight seasons at Rutgers (2007-15). Hampton is the former head coach at Clarkson University and spent the last seven seasons at St. Joseph’s, the last three as assistant head coach.

“For me,” said Washington, “it was about getting great coaches. The fact that they can be representatives is an added bonus.”

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