Monday, October 13, 2008

Legendary Coach Recalls Cheyney Roots

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Everyone was a Wolf on October 9th.
When Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer spoke at Cheyney University to promote her new book, “Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph”, everyone was all ears.
For the only woman to lead three different college programs to the NCAA Final Four, she credits Cheyney, her first coaching job, as inspiration for her book.
“The book really started because of Cheyney,” said Stringer. “When people started doing their research and understood the time I had come through Cheyney so the book came about. I [originally] didn’t set out to write a book.”
Before shock jock Don Aimus ever muttered a word about Stringer, she was well-known in basketball circles. Before Rutgers NCAA Championship appearance in 2007, she had already coached two programs to the Final Four.
Stringer had great memories to recall from coaching days at Cheyney when she gave a brief lecture in the Duckrey Social Science Auditorium. From 1972-1983, Stringer led the Wolves to the first-ever women’s Final Four where they played against Louisiana Tech in the championship game.
During the affair, Stringer spoke of her experiences having to work with limited resources on the road to becoming a success at the local black college.
“When I first came onto the [Cheyney] campus at age 22, I was a wide-eyed assistant professor that certainly wasn’t hired to be a women’s basketball coach, Stringer said in her speech. “
With first-year Cheyney coaches Jeff Braxton and Marilyn Stephens in attendance, Stringer received a huge turnout from students and alumni alike.
In her 11 years with the Wolves, Stringer coached legendary players like Yolanda Laney and Valerie Walker as well as being the head volleyball coach. Stringer says that the influx of blacks in teaching and coaching roles had a profound effect on her.
“I think it’s important for [blacks] to believe in each other,” Stringer said. “I never had a black professor [in school] and it opened up a whole new world to me. I think it’s important that black people support each other because we understand that we might not have what everyone else has but the extra help allows us to become the leaders that we are.”
Another key part of Stringer’s speech was the hardships she experienced on the road to success at Rutgers. She had to cope with the death of her late husband, Bill Stringer, when he collapsed and died of a massive heart attack in 1992.
In addition, the legendary women’s coach spoke being a single mother raising three children including her daughter Janine who is disabled. She even spoke of the tough experience that occurred when deciding whether or not to leave Cheyney for the University of Iowa.
According to Stringer, one of the biggest benefits that came sharing the arena with another legendary coach.
“I had the good fortune to be in the presence of John Chaney who is, without question, one of the greatest minds in basketball today,” said Stringer. “Beyond the x’s and o’s, he’s continued to call and guide me through the most difficult of times.”
Though it’s been over 20 years since Stringer graced the sideline at Cheyney, she still has a profound impact. Stephens, who’s number was retired by Temple University, has vivid memories of playing against Stringer and her Wolves teams.
During the question and answer portion of Stringer’s appearance, Stevens remarked about how Stringer inspired her to go into coaching and make an impact at Cheyney herself.
The modest Scarlet Knights coach just hopes that the Lady Wolves basketball and volleyball respectively have a better understanding of their great history.
“I sure hope that they appreciate that their history is rich and that we shouldn’t make excuses,” said Stringer. “Let’s just make [Cheyney] everything that we can in all things that we’re involved.”

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