She's one of the winningest coaches in women's basketball history, with 800 victories under her belt. C. Vivian Stringer, head coach of the Rutgers University women's basketball team, talks with Gayle about her memoir, Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, and the ups and downs of her personal life and career. Plus, Vivian talks about her response in the days and weeks after radio talk show host Don Imus made derogatory remarks toward her team.
Vivian says she's always loved athletics and as a young person excelled at basketball, gymnastics and even cheerleading—but she says she always knew she was born to be a coach. "[As a cheerleader,] I would get as close as I could to the court or on the football field and tell the guys, 'Randy, put your head down, hold the ball a little tighter,'" she says. As an adult, Vivian took three different women's basketball teams to NCAA Final Four, including the championship-winning Rutgers women's basketball team in 2007.
It was after the win in 2007 that radio host Don Imus made derogatory remarks about her team that caused public outcry. Imus called the Rutgers women "nappy-headed hos" and implied the opposing team's players were "cuter." "That was just being trite and making light of a national championship," she says. "It cut me so deep that I wanted to know what woman, what person, what athlete would hear this [and not be offended]?"
Imus later met with Vivian and her team and offered an apology. While the incident is still a source of hurt and pain for Vivian, she says her team handled it well and is now ready to move on. "We have to let go in order for us to grow," she says. "He made a statement about who we were [but] we needed to define who we were," she says.
Published on January 01, 2008