Former players react to retirement of Stanford basketball coach Tara VanDerveer

Head coach Tara VanDerveer of the Stanford Cardinal talks to the media during a press conference ahead of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on March 28, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Ste (Getty Images)

As Tara VanDerveer retires from Stanford women's basketball, she leaves behind not just a string of records and championships, but also a group of players that love her like family.

"When I played in the Olympics in 1996, the team used to call her ‘my mama.’ Like 'what's up with your mama today?'" says Katy Steding, a former player and current coach at Stanford.

For Steding, VanDerveer was "mama" but also "mentor." Steding was her first recruit to Stanford, joined her for the Olympics, and eventually followed her into coaching.

She says VanDerveer's impact is significant.

"I don't think it's measurable. Because I think along the way I think she's done everything to fight for women and for women's basketball," says Steding.

VanDerveer herself says coaching has always been about transformation on and off the court.

"As their coach, I have aspired to get to a place they could not get on their own," says VanDerveer.

"And I don't think any of us will be able to thank her enough for how much she's given to each of us personally," says Jeanette Pohlen, who played for VanDerveer from 2007-2011.

And while she says she appreciates the championships and the success, "I think for her, it's more than that. It's helping other female coaches and athletes and trying to raise that bar."

And in VanDerveer's 45 years as a head coach, the game has changed. From small crowds and small budgets to the most recent women's Final Four that surpassed the men's in ratings.

Former player and current coach Erica McCall credits VanDerveer in part.

"Women's basketball is on the map, and it's here to stay and Tara is a large part of that," McCall.