By: Jeffrey Newholm
Myth Mingled With Legend
The best myths are always shrouded in mystery. What fun would the UFO picture be if it wasn’t extremely blurry? Would that Facebook conspiracy theory be as intriguing if it referenced a Library of Congress classic? One fact is for sure for Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer: she won her 1,000th game in the Scarlet Knights’ 73-44 triumph over Central Connecticut State. Well, part of the mystery is how the Blue Devils appeared on the schedule, to begin with. But more importantly, who did Stringer defeat for her first win at Cheyney in the early ’70s? Stringer doesn’t remember. Cheyney doesn’t keep game-by-game records from that era. Stringer had no assistant coaches. So while every story has an end, Stringer’s has no definite beginning. But it’s a commendable story all the same.
During her childhood, Stringer’s parents told her, “work hard and don’t look for excuses, and you can achieve anything?” Anything? Surely words not to be taken too literally. Surely not taking small Cheyney to the first NCAA Final Four. Not being the first coach to take three different teams to the Final Four. It doesn’t mean to be inducted into the Naismith Hall Of Fame in the same class as Michael Jordan. And above all, it can’t mean coaching for 47 years and outlasting racist DJs and crazed fans calling for her dismissal. Actually, anything includes all of these achievements. And what next for the sixth member of the women’s hoops 1k win club?
Next steps for the game and society
While the experienced coach doesn’t have much unaccomplished, the next wave of coaches has many more role models to seek guidance and inspiration. But two areas require urgent attention, even today. First, the hypermasculine American sports culture still sees the WNBA as a pesky fly not worthy of Giants-9ers Football ratings. (The seven Knights in the pros last year may have a word or two to say about this). More importantly, the zanily-competitive U.S. society is wrong to focus so much on bettering one’s competition. Make no mistake, winning 1,000 games is a fabulous feat. But while Cheyney can’t help us out there, the next great coach should be instead measured by lives improved and girls matured. That would be a record never to be beaten but only copied by all.