Six reasons Tara VanDerveer the most underrated great coach in America

Six reasons Tara VanDerveer the most underrated great coach in America

They give no trophies or parades or rings as big as headlights for such things, and they don’t put it on plaques or the covers of media guides, but it can fairly be said that Tara VanDerveer is the most underrated great coach in America.

In any sport.

VanDerveer is a chunk of the weekend away from winning her 1,000th college basketball game, either Friday against Southern California or Monday against UCLA. It would make her the third coach in history after Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski to achieve that well-rounded milestone, and you may bet hard American currency that she will answer the hackneyed, “What does this mean to you?” question with a dismissive “It means I’ve been around for a long time.”

Which is part of why she is so underrated. She’s been around for a very long time – next year will be her 40th – and between Idaho (two years), Ohio State (five), Stanford (30) and the U.S. Olympic Team (one), a very long time in this culture is an excuse to overlook, and overlooking leads to dismissing, and dismissing leads to underrating.

Next, she’s done most of her work on the West Coast, which due to the curvature of the earth, has always been undervalued by the opinionmakers in the East and Midwest by virtue of that traditional cultural defining point, bedtime.

Third, most of her career has been as a second banana, first to Summitt and Tennessee and then to Geno Auriemma. She’s taken eleven teams to the Final Four but won only twice, and our culture values silver and bronze medals the way we value dryer lint. It also doesn’t help that her teams lost four times to Auriemma’s Connecticut and twice to Summitt’s Tennessee.

Fourth, she never could muster up a good feud the way Auriemma and Summitt did. She had this annoying habit of getting along with almost all her contemporaries (and maybe all of them; we hold out hope that she disliked at least one coach, and that said hatred was reciprocated), and while she talked willingly and expansively to any medioid with a pen, a tape recorder, a camera or an Etch-A-Sketch, she left no earth scorched in her quotable wake. These days, that is a condemnation, not a laudable trait.

Fifth, being the third person to do anything is a little harder sell these days, especially when you’re not the first in either gender category.

But sixth and most compelling of these already seamless arguments, VanDerveer is mostly an insider’s coach. She has won a steady stream of raves from her peers for decades because she has not only won for three decades but been supportive of both her contemporaries and potential successors while mercilessly kicking their hinders. Her peers regard her as much as collaborator as competitor, but outside that circle she has not done the self-aggrandizing and sometimes degrading things that need to be done to become (ick) famous. Give her a choice between the ESPYs and a clinic in a hot gym in mid-July, and she will unhesitatingly choose option B.

Okay, almost unhesitatingly. The woman has an ego, like every other coach ever, and if some network ever needs to force an award upon her, she’ll find a way to turn up.

For all this, when the list of extraordinary coaches is drawn up, hers will not be a name that comes easily to paper (or laptop, or smartphone, or Etch-A-Sketch). She’s done everything a coach can do except aggressively seek out fame, which makes her underrated by definition.

But maybe if Stanford beats USC Friday, she’ll do the postgame presser drunk, or read from Rickey Henderson’s speech the day he broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record, or offer to beat up any other basketball coach in America, tavern parking lot rules, starting with Steve Kerr.

That’d get her noticed for something other than her technical ubercompetence or lofty success level or absurd longevity or nearly antiseptic reputation among her fellow toilers. But she won’t, of course, because she seems exactly the sort to enjoy her underrated-ness too much.

Which, while exceedingly admirable on nearly every level, isn’t the stuff of good clickbait.
 

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

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AP

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's OK, Carolina, you can open your eyes.

An unwatchable game turned into a beautiful night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate.

Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead 3-point play with 1:40 left Monday and North Carolina pulled away for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga that washed away a year's worth of heartache.

It was, in North Carolina's words, a redemption tour - filled with extra time on the practice court and the weight room, all fueled by a devastating loss in last year's title game on Kris Jenkins' 3-point dagger at the buzzer for Villanova.

"Just unreal that we get a second chance at this," junior Theo Pinson said, recounting a pre-game conversation with teammate Joel Berry II. "Not a lot of people can say they can do that. I told him, `We're about to take this thing. I'm about to give everything I got.' I knew he would, too, We just didn't want to come up short again."

But to say everything went right for Roy Williams' team at this Final Four would be less than the truth.

The Tar Heels (33-7) followed a terrible-shooting night in the semifinal with an equally ice-cold performance in the final - going 4 for 27 from 3-point land and 26 for 73 overall.

Gonzaga, helped by 8 straight points from Nigel Williams-Goss, took a 2-point lead with 1:52 left, but the next possession was the game-changer.

Jackson took a zinger of a pass under the basket from Pinson and converted the shot, then the ensuing free throw to take the lead for good. Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted an ankle and could not elevate for a jumper that would've given the Bulldogs the lead.

Isaiah Hicks made a basket to push the lead to 3, then Kennedy Meeks, in foul trouble all night (who wasn't?), blocked Williams-Goss' shot and Jackson got a slam on the other end to put some icing on title No. 6 for the Tar Heels.

Williams got his third championship, putting him one ahead of his mentor, Dean Smith, and now behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp.

"I think of Coach Smith, there's no question," Williams said. "I don't think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. But we got three because I've got these guys with me and that's all I care about right now - my guys."

Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. Jackson had 16 but went 0 for 9 from 3. Overall, the Tar Heels actually shot a percentage point worse than they did in Saturday night's win over Oregon.

Thank goodness for free throws.

They went 15 for 26 from the line and, in many corners, this game will be remembered for these three men: Michael Stephens, Verne Harris and Mike Eades, the referees who called 27 fouls in the second half, completely busted up the flow of the game and sent Meeks, Gonzaga's 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, and a host of others to the bench in foul trouble.

The game "featured" 52 free throws. Both teams were in the bonus with 13 minutes left. Somehow, Collins was the only player to foul out.

Most bizarre sequence: With 8:02 left, Berry got called for a foul for (maybe) making contact with Karnowski and stripping the ball from the big man's hands. But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he inadvertently grabbed Berry around the neck. After a long delay, the refs called Karnowski for a flagrant foul of his own.

"I'm not going to talk about refs," Karnowski said. "It was just a physical game."

Zags coach Mark Few handled it with class, calling the refs "three of the best officials in the entire country," and insisting they did a fine job.

He might have wanted further review on the scrum with 50 seconds left. The refs were taking heat on social media for calling a held ball, which gave possession to the Tar Heels, on a pile-up underneath the Carolina basket. It set up the Hicks layup to put Carolina ahead by 3. One problem: Meeks' right hand looks to be very much touching out of bounds while he's trying to rip away the ball.

"That was probably on me," Few said. "From my angle, it didn't look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review. That's tough to hear."

The Bulldogs (37-2), the Cinderella-turned-Godzilla team from the small school in the West Coast Conference, tried to keep the big picture in mind. Twenty years ago, this sort of run at that sort of place looked virtually impossible. With less than 2 minutes left, they had the lead in the national title game.

"We broke the glass ceiling everyone said we couldn't break," junior forward Johnathan Williams said.

And North Carolina got over a hump that, at times this season, felt like a mountain.

"They wanted redemption," Williams said. "I put it on the locker room up on the board - one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. I think this group was tough enough tonight."