Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer retires after 50 years

Stringer has been an inspiration to many Black female coaches.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer announced her retirement Saturday after 50 years in college basketball.

She finished with 1,055 wins — fourth all-time among Division I women’s basketball coaches. Stringer made four Final Four appearances and reached the NCAA Tournament 28 times while leading Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers. Stringer was emotional when she talked to her team Friday night on a Zoom call.

Rutgers University women’s basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer addresses reporter’s during a media availability before her enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., Friday morning, Sept. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

“I am officially announcing my retirement,” Stringer in a statement. “My life has been defined by coaching and I’ve been on this journey for over five decades. It is rare that someone gets to do what they love for this long and I have been fortunate to do that. I love Rutgers University for the incredible opportunity they offered me and the tremendous victories we achieved together.”

The 74-year-old coach had been on leave this past season because of COVID-19 concerns. She signed a five-year extension before going on leave last April. Her retirement becomes effective on Sept. 1, and she agreed to an $872,988 retirement buyout. Rutgers will name its basketball court in her honor next season.

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said naming the court after her is “a fitting and indelible tribute to one of the greatest coaches of all time.” He called Stringer “an icon” whose impact has been “felt across our campuses, around the state and throughout the nation.”

Stringer has coached at Rutgers since 1995, winning 535 games. She led the Scarlet Knights to the NCAA title game in 2007 when they lost to Tennessee. 

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer gives instructions to Matee Ajavon in the second half of a regional semifinal of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, File)

The school’s appearance in 2000 made Stringer the first men’s or women’s coach to guide three different programs to the Final Four. She led Cheyney State to the first NCAA title game in 1982 and Iowa to the national semifinals in 1993.

“Coach Stringer is a titan in college basketball, inspiring generations of student-athletes and coaches to pursue excellence on and off the court,” Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs said. “Her place in the history of the game is cemented, but more remarkable is the legions of young women whose lives she helped shape.”

She started her coaching career in 1971-72 at Cheyney State in Pennsylvania.

“I am forever indebted to all the coaches who I worked beside,” Stringer said. “Some were former players, some were colleagues, but all were friends and family at the end of the day and were my most trusted relationships.”

From left, Rutgers women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer, and former NBA basketball players John Stockton, David Robinson and Michael Jordan hold jerseys Monday, April 6, 2009, in Detroit, at the announcement that they were elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. (Daniel Mears/Detroit News via AP)

“To the young ladies that I was fortunate to have coached and mentored into the women and leaders of today, keep pushing the barriers, keep pushing for your spot at the table, and always know who you are.”

At Iowa, Stringer elevated the program starting in 1983, setting an attendance record in 1985 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Stringer left Iowa to coach at Rutgers following the death of her husband Bill.

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