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

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

She had 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 Cheney State, Iowa and Rutgers. Stringer was emotional when she talked to her team Friday night on a Zoom call.

“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 leaving this past season because of COVID-19 concerns. She signed a five-year extension before going on leave last April. Her retirement from Ella will become effective on Sept. 1, and she agreed to an $872,988 retirement buyout. Rutgers will name its basketball court for her in her honor for her next season.

“This was the hardest decision of my life, but I thank God he has allowed me to do the thing I love most. I am ready to start my new journey and spend more time with my family, children, and grandchildren,” she said. “I am truly blessed to have had so many wonderful people in my life.”

The school will begin a search for a new coach immediately.

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.

The school’s other appearance in 2000 made Stringer the first men’s or women’s coach to guide three different programs to the Final Four after playing in the first NCAA title game with Cheyney State in 1992. She led 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. “As the first coach to lead three different programs to the Final Four, she will continue to be mentioned along with the game’s other great Hall of Famers. 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 Cheney State.

“After recently celebrating the first women’s Final Four team at Cheyney State University, where it all started, it sat with me that I have been at this for a long time. It is important to step aside and challenge others to step up and take this game forward,” Stringer said.

Stringer turned around the program at Iowa 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 Ella Bill.

“There’s always a soft spot in my heart for the University of Iowa and Dr. Christine Grant for giving me my first major coaching position … She was a strong believer in women’s rights and that’s a responsibility that I have championed and will continue to take up the fight for.”

Stringer has been an inspiration to many Black female coaches, including South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, who won her second national championship on April 3.

“Coach Stringer thank you for elevating our game,” Staley tweeted. “The strength of your shoulders allowed us to stand tall. We will forever keep your legacy in our hearts. Thank you Coach Stringer.”

Stringer won 20 or more games 37 times in her career and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. She also served as an assistant coach on the 2004 US Olympic team that won a gold medal.

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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