While doing play-by-play and color commentary for KZSU during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, I had the pleasure of broadcasting roughly 50 of Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer's 800 wins. Several of those games left me hoarse, but none of them make this list of the top 10 wins, in chronological order, of VanDerveer's career.
1. Dec. 1, 1978: Idaho 70, Northern Montana 68
VanDerveer, who is listed in Idaho's media guide as Tara Van Derveer and boasts the second-highest winning percentage (42-14, .750) in Vandals history, earned the first of her 800 career wins against the Northern Montana Skylights. Has she defeated a team with a cooler nickname in the 32 years since?
2. Nov. 22, 1985: Stanford 68, Hawaii 65.
Following an impressive five-year stint at Ohio State, where she led the Buckeyes to four straight 20-win seasons, four Big Ten titles, and two NCAA tournament appearances, VanDerveer moved on to Stanford. VanDerveer won her first game on the Farm en route to a 13-15 record during the 1985-86 season. It was a sign of good things to come.
3. March 20, 1988. Stanford 74, Montana 72 (OT) NCAA Second Round
Stanford broke through with a 27-5 record in VanDerveer's third year at the helm and won its first postseason game in front of a sellout crowd of 8,709 at Montana's Dahlberg Arena. Trisha Stevens had a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds, while fellow freshman Sonja Henning added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Cardinal. Stevens hit a pair of free throws in the final minute of overtime to break a 70-70 tie after Stanford blew a 70-65 lead with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. The Grizzlies (28-2) missed two potential game-winning shots in the final seconds. "It could have been over sooner," VanDerveer said. "There were a lot of fouls called, and I thought they would let both teams play more."
4. Dec. 15, 1989. Stanford 85, Tennessee 71
A Stanford women's basketball record crowd of 5,425 watched the Cardinal knock off the defending national champions and announce its presence among the nation's elite. "It's been a long time since I've coached a game that meant more to the other team than it did to Tennessee," Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt said afterward. "But they beat us, and they beat us good. We did not play with our heads and hearts out there." VanDerveer tried to put the early-season win in perspective. "It's a good confidence builder for us," she said. "You don't need confidence building when you're national champions. It shows we've arrived, that's the important thing. We'll let the rest take care of itself."
5. April 4, 1990: Stanford 88, Auburn 81
Stanford won its first of two NCAA titles under VanDerveer by draining 11 3-pointers in front of a women's title game crowd of 16,595 at Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena. "Katy (Steding) and I have played together for four years and all at one moment all the hard work has paid off," Final Four MVP Jennifer Azzi said. Stanford had little trouble breaking Auburn's full-court trap, burning the Tigers repeatedly from outside. "We basically treated the press like a fast-break opportunity," VanDerveer said.
6. Dec. 14, 1991: Stanford 96, Tennessee 95 (OT)
After No. 3 Stanford upset No. 1 Tennessee at home, there was a chance the Cardinal would be voted No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time. Instead, Stanford was voted No. 2. "Well, in a way it's a relief that we didn't make it," VanDerveer said. "We're a young team and, perhaps, it would become an extra pressure we don't need at this time. I guess we'll have to keep up the tradition of being only No. 1 at the end when it counts."
7. April 5, 1992: Stanford 78, Western Kentucky 62
Stanford was indeed No. 1 when it counted after defeating the Hilltoppers in the NCAA title game for its second championship in three years. The Cardinal's stiffest test in the tournament came one day earlier, against Virginia in the semifinals. Val Whiting scored a game-high 28 points and Kelly Dougherty hit a free throw with 26 seconds remaining to lift Stanford to a 66-65 win against the Cavaliers.
8. Dec. 15, 1996: Stanford 82, Tennessee 65
The Cardinal hit 11 of its first 13 shots and defeated Tennessee for the first and only time in Thompson-Boling Arena. The win came one year after Stanford dominated the Volunteers at home. "I knew they wanted to play real hard because of last year's game, but we didn't forget we got killed the last time we were here," said Stanford junior Vanessa Nygaard, who was part of the team that lost 105-69 in Knoxville two years earlier. "Plus, no Stanford team had ever won here, and there have been some great Stanford teams."
9. Dec. 22, 2007: Stanford 73, Tennessee 69 (OT)
Stanford ended an 11-game losing streak to the Lady Vols with a dramatic win at Maples Pavilion, the 699th of VanDerveer's career. "Games like this have gone the other way, but we found a way to pull it out," VanDerveer said. Sophomore Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was the hero in overtime, scoring nine of Stanford's 10 points in the extra period. Stanford star Candice Wiggins outplayed Tennessee's Candace Parker, leading VanDerveer to remark, "Tonight, Candice is spelled with an 'i.'"
10. April 6, 2008: Stanford 82, Connecticut 73
Wiggins scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Stanford into the National Championship game, where it lost to Tennessee. It was Connecticut's last loss before embarking on its 89-game winning streak. VanDerveer and the Cardinal will have a chance to bookend that streak with a win on Dec. 30.
One could make the case that Wednesday's milestone win against San Francisco should be included on this list, and I'm sure I forgot some others. What games did I leave out? Which of VanDerveer's 800 wins do you remember most fondly?