Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer announced her retirement Saturday after 50 years in college basketball.
She finished with 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 Cheyney 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 leave this past season because of COVID-19 concerns. She signed a five-year extension before going on leave last April. Her retirement becomes effective on Sept. 1, and she agreed to an $872,988 retirement buyout. Rutgers will name its basketball court in her honor next season.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said naming the court after her is "a fitting and indelible tribute to one of the greatest coaches of all time." He called Stringer "an icon" whose impact has been "felt across our campuses, around the state and throughout the nation."
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 appearance in 2000 made Stringer the first men's or women's coach to guide three different programs to the Final Four. She led Cheyney State to the first NCAA title game in 1982 and 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. "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 Cheyney State in Pennsylvania.
"I am forever indebted to all the coaches who I worked beside," Stringer said. "Some were former players, some were colleagues, but all were friends and family at the end of the day and were my most trusted relationships.
"To the young ladies that I was fortunate to have coached and mentored into the women and leaders of today, keep pushing the barriers, keep pushing for your spot at the table, and always know who you are."
At Iowa, Stringer elevated the program 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 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, finishing with a 1,055-426 record (.712 winning percentage). She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Stringer also served as an assistant coach on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal.
The school will begin a search for a new coach immediately. Associate head coach Tim Eatman had taken over for Stringer in her absence.
"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 spending more time with my family, children, and grandchildren," she said. "I am truly blessed to have had so many wonderful people in my life."
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