By DOUG FEINBERG
The Associated Press
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — As the red and white confetti rained down on the court to celebrate C. Vivian Stringer’s 1,000th career victory, the Hall of Fame coach took a moment to soak it all in.
She was surrounded by family, friends, former players and coaches from all three schools where she coached.
“Let me tell you something, sometimes people ask how did I accomplish these things?” Stringer said. “This was only done with my family first of all and they mean everything in the world. They lifted me up.”
Stringer became the fifth Division I women’s basketball coach to achieve the milestone and sixth woman overall when the Scarlet Knights beat Central Connecticut State 73-44 on Tuesday night.
The Hall of Fame coach joined Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer and Sylvia Hatchell in the 1,000-victory club. Division II coach Barbara Stevens also has won over 1,000 games.
The 70-year-old Stringer is the first African-American coach to reach the milestone.
As the final seconds ran down, the 4,583 fans held up signs and chanted the coach’s name. Her current team dumped a Gatorade bucket full of the confetti over their coach’s head.
Video tributes from all the other living Division I members of the 1,000-win club were played as Stringer sat under balloons that spelled out CVS1K. Stringer also received many online tributes on social media, including one from Hillary Clinton. Rutgers presented her with a banner to celebrate her 1,000th win that will hang in the arena’s rafters.
She also received a customized pair of shoes that listed the number of wins she had each of her three schools — Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers.
Many of her former players were on hand to witness the milestone victory. She’s 1,000-402 in her career. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was also sitting courtside for the historic win.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley also made the trip to New Jersey with her staff that included Jolette Law, who was an assistant for Stringer at Rutgers for many years and played for her at Iowa.
“I know that coach Law fooled me this morning saying she couldn’t come to the celebration because she had the scout,” Stringer said. “One of the young ladies came from Hawaii. She flew in and is going to fly back. Maybe I’m doing some things right. People genuinely do care. Something my father said a long time ago, don’t give me flowers when I’m gone let me know what you feel now.”
Staley’s Gamecocks play on Thursday against Clemson. She said she had no doubt in her mind she should be at Rutgers for this game with all that Stringer has meant to African-American coaches.
“It’s legacy,” Staley said. “She’s meant so much to the game and I’m here to celebrate with her.”
While Stringer remembers many of the victories over her 48-year coaching career, one that she doesn’t recall is her first one at Cheyney State. In fact, no one can specifically remember who her team beat to get that first victory. Stringer laughs about it now, saying that she had no idea she’d be still coaching nearly five decades later and win 1,000 games.
While it took Stringer five tries to get win No. 900 in 2013, her team took care of reaching this milestone on its first try. The Scarlet Knights (3-0) scored 10 of the first 13 points and never looked back building a 37-17 halftime lead.
Stringer was concerned before the game that her team would be under a lot of pressure to win with so many people coming to celebrate the momentous victory. Her team made sure they wouldn’t go home disappointed. Caitlin Jenkins had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Scarlet Knights.
Kiana Patterson led Central Connecticut State with 25 points, including the 1,000th of her career.