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On April 4, 2007, radio talk show host Don Imus made a racial slur against the Rutgers University women's basketball team on air, resulting in a media frenzy and his eventual firing. Behind the grace and dignity with which the team handled the situation was their tough-as-nails coach, Vivian Stringer.

Born a coal miner's daughter, Vivian was the first coach to catapult three different college programs from underdogs to national prominence at the Final Four. She began coaching without pay at Cheney State College in the '70s, where she took the obscure program to the first women's college basketball finals in 1982.

A wife and mother with a successful career, it seemed Vivian was living the American dream. Suddenly, her 14-month-old daughter, Nina, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, and brain damage left her unable to walk or speak.

With the support of her husband, Bill, Vivian kept coaching and moved her family to Iowa to find better medical care for Nina. As head coach at the University of Iowa, she again transformed a struggling team into a national powerhouse.

Then, tragedy struck once more when her 47-year-old husband died of a massive heart attack. Only months later, she coached the Hawkeyes to glory with her sons' encouragement. To escape the painful memory of her husband's death, Vivian moved her family to Rutgers University, where she would make history yet again.
FROM: Sports Legends Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Vivian Stringer
Published on December 01, 2008