MAKERS Profile

Vivian Stringer

Champion College Basketball Coach

In this video

Vivian Stringer on defying discrimination, inspiring coaching, and Don Imus's infamous remarks about her Rutgers team.
“Work hard and don’t look for excuses, and you can achieve anything.”  This was the lesson that legendary college basketball coach, Vivian Stringer, learned from her parents while growing up in Edenborn, Pa., and one of the key lessons that she passed on to the hundreds of players that she has coached over the course of her long and illustrious career.  Stringer began her teaching and coaching career in the early 70s at Cheyney, a small, historically-black college outside of Philadelphia.  Even before the seeds of Title IX had truly started to take root nationally, Stringer propelled her team at Cheyney to the final four in the NCAA’s first-ever National Championship for women’s basketball in 1982.  She later did the same for her teams at the University of Iowa in 1993, and at Rutgers in 2000 and 2007, earning her the distinction of being the first coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the national semifinals. When Don Imus made his notorious, derogatory remarks about her Rutgers team in 2007, Coach Stringer’s eloquent public response modeled dignity and poise for her players and the nation.     The third winningest coach in women's basketball history, Stringer has received a multitude of honors over the course of her career, including being named the National Coach of the Year three times (Wade Trophy, 1982; Converse, 1988; and Naismith, 1993) by her peers, the 1993 Coach of the Year by Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Converse, the Los Angeles Times and the Black Coaches Association, and her induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.  She joined fellow esteemed basketball greats Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan on the stage at Symphony Hall to receive basketball’s ultimate honor. One of her most personally-gratifying accolades is the 1993 Carol Eckman Award, which acknowledges the coach most demonstrating spirit, courage, integrity, commitment, leadership and service to the game of women's basketball.

More From Vivian

Countering Imus
Coach Stringer discusses her reaction and response to Don Imus's comments about her Rutgers team.

Coping with Tragedy
Coach Stringer describes about how she coped with two major tragedies in her life - her daughter's illness and her husband's death.

Measure of Success
To play on Coach Stringer's team you must be as passionate as she is and never say "I can't."   

Female Coaches
Despite the dramatic benefits of Title IX, Coach Stringer worries about what was lost in the lesser numbers of women coaches.

"Where's My Color?"
Coach Stringer recalls a defining moment in her teenage life when her skin color made her feel excluded and ashamed.

Integrating Cheerleading
Stringer describes integrating the then all-white cheerleading squad in her high school, overcoming her initial fear.

A Life's Passion
Stringer reflects on her near-irrational passion for playing sports which evolved, unexpectedly, into a passion for coaching.

Boys Had All the Fun
As a young girl, Coach Stringer bristled against not being allowed to do what the boys did and the label "tomboy."

Pitching In for the Family
Coach Stringer appreciated that her parents exposed her and her siblings to the sacrifices and work necessary to support the family.

"No Excuse"
Even disability didn't slow down Coach Stringer's hard-working, coalminer father, who continues to inspire her coaching style.

Rich in Community
Stringer talks about why she never thought of herself as growing up "poor" in Appalachia.