Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer: More Memories of a Future Hall of Famer

By Mel Greenberg

(Guru's note: Your Guru has become involved in some print coverage for the home office of Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mass., causing him to withhold some items that were going to appear in these posts. But fear not, you have not wasted keyboard clicks. Another member of her past from her earliest Rutgers days _ Josh Reinitz _ has provided a requested remembrance. Additionally, the Guru is contemplating a combined an all-time 15-player roster from her days at Cheyney, Iowa and Rutgers, and while you and the Guru knows the obvious suspects, the final cuts would still be tough. Feel free to email nominations and if you want opinions made public let the Guru know.)

That said, as the Guru marks his 40th anniversary on Sept. 9 at the paper (time to update the bios), he gives the floor to Josh, who the Guru considers a forerunner to many Rutgers individuals, including current media contact Stacey Brann, who have had the challenge to keep Stringer's beyond-the-court life organized.

Josh Reinitz:

I sat down for my first real job interview with Coach Stringer in September 1995.

I was less than three months out of high school and my most significant basketball honor was backing up Steven Rosenblatt on the New Jersey Jewish Center Basketball League State Champions.

I had spent the summer reading in my local newspaper about this new women’s basketball coach at Rutgers who was paid more money than the football coach and who vowed to make the program a national power.

I expected arrogance, bravado and conceit.

What I encountered was a demure, soft-spoken woman who was genuinely interested in my point of view.

Fortunately, either my point of view impressed or the candidate pool was shallow, either way walking out of the office my life would never be the same.

Coach often talks about character.

She defines character as what you do when nobody is watching.

In her first game as the Head Coach at Rutgers we took on Penn State at the RAC. The Nittany Lions were ranked Seventh in the nation and boasted All America Angie Potthoff (now a Notre Dame assistant coach).

The RAC is a magical place; we won the game on a turnaround jumper in the lane by Jennifer Clemente (my fellow freshman at the time).

Fast forward 12 months.

We brought a top 5 recruiting class to State College for the rematch.

It was clear to all of us that a tough road lay ahead.

Coach was fighting to meld the team she inherited with the team she recruited while losing her most talented recruit to Prop 48.

Penn State was the more experienced team which put them miles ahead of us in preparation.

That coupled with undoubtedly being reminded daily in the month leading to the game by Coach (Rene) Portland of the embarrassing loss the year before set us up for what was surely to be a lopsided defeat.

On that trip one of my assignments was to escort Coach down to the meeting room for meals, video, etc. It was an early game so our pre-game meal that day was breakfast.

Coach is notorious for her coffee drinking (for those interested it cannot be light or sweet enough for her), and when I arrived at the room I noticed two things, on the coffee table in front of the TV was an urn of coffee and in her right hand was a rolled up 30 page scouting report full of freshly scrawled notes.

We arrived at the gym and as the game got further and further out of reach I was struck by the intensity and passion she demonstrated.

What still stays with me is the ferocity with which she called out every play Penn State was going to run as soon as they got in a formation.

Her team was too young and inexperienced to know how to counter the plays but she would not allow herself to put forth anything less than maximum effort.

The night before the game when everyone else involved was sleeping, with knowledge that her work was likely futile she studied like it was the National Championship.

She personified her definition of character.
Coach has been a mentor in many ways, I find myself repeating and incorporating her maxims in my life both as a lawyer and a father on a regular basis.

During our engagement my eventual wife and I separated for a short period of time.

A few weeks later on a road trip after an unexpected loss Coach sought me out in the airport terminal away from the rest of the traveling party.

I figured she wanted to talk about a video breakdown she wanted to show the team before practice the next day but she had heard about the break up.

She quickly turned from boss to concerned parent and gave me prophetic words of wisdom. Her faith and guidance ushered me through a difficult period.

I’m glad that the Naismith Hall of Fame has chosen to recognize her in this remarkable class.

She has dedicated her life to the game and to using the game to make better the world she inherited.

She has fought for the recognition of the female athlete and been a great ambassador for her country.

What she has most in common with her fellow inductees is the reverance she holds for basketball and her single-minded focus to never cheat the game by displaying anything less than constant passion and true character.

(Much more to come)

- Mel