C. Vivian Stringer, the Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach at Rutgers University, who was on the fringes of a college in 1971 and became one of the top defensive minds in her sport, said Saturday she would retire in September.
The first black coach to win at least 1,000 Division I basketball games, Stringer, 74, has long been among the celebrated and idolized figures in college sports. However, in recent years, she has sometimes been away from the Rutgers program that she made a mainstay of women’s basketball for more than a quarter-century in charge of Piscataway, NJ. She wasn’t a coach last season and missed a few games. near the end of the 2018-19 season due to burnout.
“After recently hosting the first women’s Final Four team at Cheyney State University, where it all started, I realized I’ve been at this for a long time,” Stringer said in a statement. “It’s important to step back and challenge others to step up and get this game going.”
Stringer won 535 games at Rutgers, where she became a coach in 1995, and relied on a punishing “55” defense that used all five players in full-court pressure. Her Rutgers career included two 17-seat Final Four appearances in NCAA tournaments.
She also guided Cheyney State, a historically black college 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. At Iowa, where he inherited a program in 1983 that had won just seven games the previous season, he made the Hawkeyes a model of consistency and power in the Big Ten Conference.
An NCAA championship was ultimately elusive, but Stringer will retire with 1,055 career wins, the fifth-most in Division I women’s college basketball, and a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, to which she was inducted in 2009. Dozens of Stringer’s players went on to play in the WNBA and overseas professional leagues, including Kahleah Copper, Arella Guirantes, Cappie Pondexter and Erica Wheeler.
Rutgers announced in April 2021 that it had reached a $5.5 million contract extension with Stringer, who was then expected to remain with the Scarlet Knights through the end of the 2025–26 season. But she never coached another game, fueling frustrations and speculation around women’s basketball about the show’s future.
Last season, Rutgers went 11-20, with a 3-14 record in the Big Ten Conference.
Even as Rutgers announced the start of the coaching search Saturday, university officials were eager to pay tribute to Stringer, who was only the second full-time women’s basketball coach in school history. The university said it would name its local basketball court for Stringer, who will also receive $872,988 in connection with a retirement agreement.
“My life has been defined by training and I have been on this journey for more than five decades,” Stringer said. “It’s rare for someone to be able to do what they love for so long and I’ve been lucky enough to do it.”