Successful Stanford coach still calls Chautauqua home


Tara VanDerveer. Submitted photo.

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

Tara VanDerveer has had a career full of highlights.

Since 1985, VanDerveer has led Stanford University’s women’s basketball team as head coach, landing two NCAA Division I Championships — one in 1990 and one in 1992. She took the helm of the U.S. national women’s team in the 1996 Olympic Games and led it to a gold medal and an undefeated season. She holds a place in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

But before all of her success, VanDerveer first came to Chautauqua at the age of 8.

“I’ve traveled all over the world; I’ve had great life experiences,” she said. “But Chautauqua, for me, is home.”

VanDerveer lived in the Lakeside Lodge, an old place her parents bought and rented out during the season. The five VanDerveer children lived in the attic and worked around the house — cleaning, carrying luggage and more.

VanDerveer’s father participated in a reading program at Chautauqua that corresponded with his work at Syracuse University, and through that, the family would receive tickets for opera and theater dress rehearsals. VanDerveer said she would take advantage of the lectures, concerts and other performances Chautauqua had to offer, even as a child.

“I would sit in the front row,” she said. “I was a fixture at the Amp.”

In between events at the Amphitheater, VanDerveer said she enjoyed activities at Boys’ and Girls’ Club and especially loved to take sailboats out onto Chautauqua Lake. In addition, she swam across the lake each summer.

These Chautauqua experiences, VanDerveer said, helped to shape her as she grew older.

“Being exposed to sailing as a young girl, you gain confidence,” she said. “Going to the Amp and seeing great musicians, you develop an ear for great music.”

VanDerveer’s “ear” led her to pursue the piano later in life, a hobby she said she’s quite enthusiastic about.

Every summer, between working basketball camps, VanDerveer finds a little time to come back to the place she spent her summers as a kid. She said she usually returns for a week in either June or July, based on her schedule at Stanford.

It’s the Chautauquan identity, she said, that keeps her coming back.

“It’s a sense of community,” VanDerveer said. “Being at Chautauqua is something I’m really proud of.”

When she’s on the grounds, VanDerveer said, she makes time to sail for about four or five hours a day. Last summer, VanDerveer even took up a duplicate bridge class, just to try it out.

“I think Chautauqua is a lifetime learning place; that’s part of the motto,” she said. “I’ve adopted that for my life, whether it’s piano or bridge … there’s a lot of things I feel like I want to do, and Chautauqua encourages that.”

Her mother, three sisters and brother all stay on the grounds as well.

This year, VanDerveer joins nine others in the newest class of inductees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The class also includes NBA stars like former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, former Golden State Warriors shooting guard Chris Mullin and others.

The Class of 2011 inductees will be recognized at ceremonies planned for Aug. 11 to 13 in Springfield, Mass., according a news release on Stanford’s athletics website.

She also was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Still, given all her accomplishments, VanDerveer can’t forget the place she likes to return to every summer and sometimes even in the offseason.

“It’s a very powerful place for me; I love being here,” VanDerveer said. “So many great things to do and great people to do them with.”