Rarely in sports do we witness a sign of true sportsmanship quite like what happened at the University of San Francisco after suffering a 100-45 loss to the Stanford Cardinal this past December.
It was Tara VanDerveer's 800th win and USF had planned for the loss, held a post-game ceremony, and USF employees were passing out cardinal red "800" signs to help fans create an atmosphere appropriate for the moment. And, by all appearances, former Stanford players Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding couldn't be prouder to be part of that win even as losing coaches.
Many had expected the milestone to occur at either DePaul or Tennessee in their previous road games, but hitting the milestone against former players with Stanford and USF fans joining together to celebrate the milestone added a nice touch to an already special moment.
That night stands as one of my favorite memories as a basketball fan, not only because it was the "classy" thing to do, but also that VanDerveer is so highly respected by Bay Area fans and most reasonable people in the women's basketball community that not doing something to stop and commemorate the moment probably would have felt even more odd.
When considering that VanDerveer became only the sixth coach to accumulate 800 wins at an institution with academic standards that make recruiting objectively harder, she has to be regarded as one of the greatest basketball minds our nation has seen. That's evident just in hearing her talk through games, whether it be at the Final Four or a Pac-10 opponent in the Northwest; she's built a powerhouse in Northern California by picking apart every nuance of every matchup while her teams routinely thrive on simply making less mistakes then the opposing players. The quality of coaching that has gone into her career didn't really require 800 wins to certify it, but it does serve as a great shorthand for VanDerveer's place in history.
C&R shared a great list of Tara-isms, which should probably be used during the WNBA games tonight to honor her greatness. For more thoughts on VanDerveer, my summary of that 800th win. For my naive thoughts on Charles Barkley saying Teresa Edwards is the best ever and why history is good, click here.