By BOTWC Staff
Stringer got her start over five decades ago, becoming the first basketball coach, men’s or women’s, to guide three different programs to the Final Four. She led HBCU Cheyney University to their first NCAA tournament championship in 1982, coaching there from 1971 to 1983. Then as the head women’s coach at Iowa, transformed the team, who had won only seven games the season prior to her start, into a powerhouse, earning them their first national semifinal game in 1993. She was the head women’s coach at Iowa from 1983-1995 before heading to Rutgers University.
At the New Jersey school, Stringer has only enhanced her legendary status, leading the women’s basketball team to its first Final Four in 2000 and the national title game in 2007. The Knights have played in 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments from 2003 to 2012 and earned a WNIT title in 2014, garnering 37 20-win seasons, the last being in 2019-20, the most of any team in NCAA history. Now, Stringer has announced her retirement after 50 years of remarkable leadership.
“My life has been defined by coaching and I’ve been on this journey for over five decades. It is rare that someone gets to do what they love for this long and I have been fortunate to do that…This was the hardest decision of my life, but I thank God he has allowed me to do the thing I love most. I am ready to start my new journey and spending more time with my family, children, and grandchildren. I am truly blessed to have had so many wonderful people in my life,” Stringer told reporters.
The 74-year-old pioneer has garnered 1,055 wins as a head coach, guiding her teams to 28 NCAA tournament appearances. She made history as the first Black coach to earn a Division 1 victory, ranking fourth of all time. In 2001, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2009, she was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Stringer has also been named national coach of the year three times and conference coach of the year four times, twice in the Big Ten and twice in the Big East. In 2004, she served as an assistant on the Olympic gold medal-winning team in Athens.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who recently made history as the highest paid Black coach in women’s basketball history and the first Black head basketball coach to win multiple Division 1 national titles, tweeted about the significance of Stringer and her impact on the game.
“Coach Stringer thank you for elevating our game. The strength of your shoulders allowed us to stand tall. We will forever keep your legacy in our hearts. Thank you Coach Stringer,” wrote Staley.
Over the course of her career, Stringer has produced 21 WNBA draft picks, including Sue Wicks, Cappie Pondexter, Essence Carson, Kia Vaughn, Epiphanny Prince, Erica Wheeler, Betnijah Laney, Kahleah Copper and Arella Guirantes. Her last bit of advice to them – “keep pushing the barriers, keep pushing for your spot at the table, and always know who you are,” said Stringer.
She also took the time to thank Rutgers and staff at the University of Iowa, who allowed her to have her first head coaching position and inspired her to be an advocate for women’s rights in her field.
“I love Rutgers University for the incredible opportunity they offered me and the tremendous victories we achieved together. There’s always a soft spot in my heart for the University of Iowa and Dr. Christine Grant for giving me my first major coaching position, when me and my husband trusted her to move our family to Iowa. She was a strong believer in women’s rights and that’s a responsibility that I have championed and will continue to take up the fight for,” Stringer said.
Coach Stringer will officially retire on September 1. Rutgers is set to begin a national search for Stringer’s replacement immediately and the school has already announced plans to rename the court at Jersey Mike’s Arena in her honor.
Job well done, Coach Stringer! Happy Retirement!