C. Vivian Stringer, coach of the Rutgers University Women’s Hall of Fame Basketball team, which first commanded a college sideline in 1971 and became one of the sport’s top quarterbacks, said Saturday she will retire in September.
Stringer, 74, the first black coach to win at least 1,000 Division I basketball games, has long been a celebrated and idolized figure in college sports. However, in recent years, she has occasionally found herself sidelined by the Rutgers program, which she has built into a mainstay of women’s basketball for more than a quarter of a century while managing in Piscataway, New Jersey. She didn’t coach last season and she missed several games towards the end of the 2018-19 season due to exhaustion.
“After recently celebrating the Women’s First Team Final Four at Cheney State University where it all started, I realized I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Stringer said in a statement. “It’s important to step aside and challenge others to get energized and move this game forward.”
Stringer won 535 games at Rutgers, where she became coach in 1995, and relied on a hard-hitting 55 defense in which all five players put pressure all over the court. Her run at Rutgers included two Final Four appearances with 17 NCAA tournament spots.
She also led Cheney State, a historically black university near Philadelphia, to the 1982 title game—the first in NCAA history for women’s basketball—and the University of Iowa to the 1993 Final Four. In Iowa, where in 1983 she inherited a program that had won just seven games the previous season, she turned the Hawkeyes into a model of consistency and power in the Big Ten Conference.
An NCAA championship was ultimately out of reach, but Stringer would retire with 1,055 career wins, the fifth-most wins in Division I women’s collegiate basketball, and a place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which she was inducted into in 2009. Dozens of Stringer players went on to play in the WNBA and professional leagues overseas, including Kalea Copper, Arella Girantes, Cappie Pondexter, and Erica Wheeler.
Rutgers announced April 2021 that he reached a $5.5 million contract extension with Stringer, who is expected to remain with the Scarlet Knights until the end of the 2025–26 season. But she never coached another game, which sparked speculation about the program’s future.
Rutgers went 11-20 last season, with a 3-14 record in Big Ten conference play.
Even as Rutgers announced the search for a coach on Saturday, university officials were eager to pay tribute to Stringer, who was only the second full-time women’s basketball coach in the school’s history. The university said it will name its home basketball court after Stringer, who will also receive $872,988 due to a pension deal.
“My life is defined by coaching and I have been on this journey for over five decades,” Stringer said. “Seldom does someone manage to do what they love for so long, and I was lucky to do it.”