Aside from the fight against racial discrimination, she had a personal motive to battle the school board: so she would stand near the sidelines and tell the boys how to play.
“I would say, you know, ‘Make that extra pass!’” she recalled. “’Don’t you see guys free underneath?”
As a freshman at Slippery Rock, C. Vivian Stoner—her name then—met the love of her life, Bill Stringer. They married and had three children but their infant daughter, Nina, turned out to have spinal meningitis and would need constant care.
The next challenge came when her husband died of a heart attack on Thankgiving of 1992. Her oldest son, David, a football player, was peripherally involved in a shooting by someone else at North Carolina State in 1998 that left a man dead.
Her younger son, Justin, suffered but recovered from a brain injury in a serious car crash in 2000. Her book, a lively read, recounts all of this and much more and makes it clear that she remembers every slight, every hurt. She writes and talks often of how much she cries and of “earth angels” who buoy her. She speaks of miracles and omens. She is a breast cancer survivor.
Ms. Stringer has deep brown eyes that lock in while she talks or listens. Sometimes, she speaks in a stream-of-consciousness with free association. When angry, these statements can exceed 30 minutes. But most people in her presence pick up her personal charisma.
With long, flowing hair, well-tailored suits and tasteful jewelry, Ms. Stringer exudes the energy and style of a much younger person. “I like spunky people,” she said. She follows political news and opinion shows on cable TV because “Life is kind of boring if you don’t have an opinion.”
And she has many. Ms. Stringer said a Republican woman in Iowa recently suggested
Ms. Stringer run for office there. “I’ve thought about it,” Ms. Stringer said, of politics in general. Had she not coached, Ms. Stringer said, “I would’ve been a lawyer. I’d’ve taken care of the poor people.”
But her tongue might be a bit too tart for political correctness. After the Connecticut game, discussing her shorter players, Ms. Stringer said: “No disrespect to midgets, we call our little people ‘midgets.’” Think Maxine Waters with a dash of Joe Biden.
A better comparison might be with her future peers in the 900 Club of Division 1 coaches. There are only six in history, a sign of how elite a club it is. The retired Ms. Summitt leads all with 1,098. The other women are Silvia Hatchell of North Carolina, at 902 and counting, and the retired Jody Conradt of Texas, at exactly 900.
The men are Mike Krzyekwiski of Duke at 950 as of Thursday afternoon and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse at 912, both still active. The retired Mr. Knight won 902.
In the past, in a different context, Ms. Stringer once said: “It’s one thing when you are hunting it’s another thing when you are hunted.” Perhaps now she feels a bit of both.