900 is a big number. 1 is a lot smaller.
Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer won her 900th game Tuesday night with a win over South Florida and yet she stands at 1-28 against Top 10 foes over the past 5 years. Such is the contradiction which is Vivian Stringer in February, 2013: she is viewed as an icon by some and an out of touch basketball coach by many more.
Stringer’s team (15-12, 6-8 Big East) boasts 6 McDonald’s All-Americans, many more than no. 1 Baylor and no. 2 Notre Dame, yet they have fallen to 9-18 Seton Hall and 10-17 Boston College and lost by 16 to Princeton of the Ivy League.
Her mentor, John Chaney, former Temple coach says that she doesn’t have top talent and that some of her assistants should be fired. Former Stringer player at Iowa, Nadine Domond, now running HoopGurlz for ESPN called her talent good, but not at a UConn or Baylor level.
One of the top coaches in the game was not bashful in saying that if Geno Auriemma had Stringer’s talent, Rutgers would be a Final Four team and if Stringer had the UConn players, they would struggle in the Sweet 16.
Stringer’s contract expires at the end of the 2014 season and it is no secret that she has tried, to no avail, through her brother-agent to get an extension from Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. Instead of waiting until the end of this season, reportedly as suggested by Pernetti she tried furtively to make her cause public in an interview with the 3 major beat writers who cover her team. She recently went so far as to say, “How many men’s basketball championships have we (Rutgers) won? How many football championships have we won.”
Stringer is frustrated. It took her 5 games to move from 899 wins to 900 and she is on the verge of not making the NCAA’s for the first time at Rutgers since 2002.
Many of her woes are her own doing. She has played a Hank Iba/John Chaney offense throughout her coaching career and in the process has accumulated some head scratching losses. Her offense has at its foundation her defensive pressure. One individual close to her program has said that the offensive drills don’t begin in earnest until mid-November, about the same time the season is to start.
There is no doubt that she is a great recruiter and has been bailed out offensively over her years at Rutgers by the likes of Essence Carson, Epiphanny Prince, and Cappie Pondexter. She hasn’t had such a player since Prince left early in 2009 for the WNBA.
So what is her future at Rutgers?
If her team makes a run in the Big East Tournament and earns an NCAA bid, she will most assuredly be extended by Pernetti with a more incentive based contract. If her team does not make the postseason, the answer is unclear. For the sake of her legacy, if she is not extended, then hopefully she will view 2013-14 as a victory lap on a great career instead of another season laced with excuses and rants.