Tara VanDerveer Q & A, Part X

This may be the off-season but fans can stay tuned in to Stanford basketball through TheBootleg.com's ongoing Q & A series with Head Coach Tara VanDerveer. Well they could. Part X concludes the series. Look for the movie version in 2011.

In the tenth edition of our summer Q & A with Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer, we conclude the series with questions about next season and touch on that constant source of angst to fans, the officiating (gulp!). We also find out what sort of player the coach was back in the day. Would VanDerveer recruit…herself? Some of our questions were from Bootleg subscribers, whose message board handles are noted.

Seiko asks what role is projected for the two incoming freshmen, Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef?

You don't know what you're getting with freshmen. You just have to wait and see. We are very hopeful. When we signed them we hoped that they would be able to contribute right away. I like how versatile they both are. They are highly skilled players. They pass. They shoot. They can dribble. They're both very, very smart. The best thing is we are not counting on them necessarily. We have six returning starters so it's not like we're saying we need someone right away. A lot will depend on how quickly they adjust to playing college basketball. We are very, very excited about both of them.

Seiko also asks whether you anticipate playing guards JJ Hones and Jeanette Pohlen regularly together? Would they both be starters at guard? Who would be the point guard?

I think it would be unfair of me to say. I don't think I know. I don't know how hard Ros (Gold-Onwude) is working this summer. She is one of our top defenders. Based on having coached basically six starters already – Ros, JJ, Jeanette, Kayla (Pedersen), Nneka (Ogwumike), and Jayne (Appel) – I'm not going to rule anyone out nor am I going to pencil anyone in. It might be safe to say that Jayne is in there just based on the fact that you've got Sarah Boothe with a stress fracture and Jayne is coming off such a great junior year. I think things are competitive and we're going to play whoever gets out there and gets the job done. I don't think things are set at all.

The Bootleg thinks that "might be safe to say that Jayne is in there" is the equivalent of "might be safe to say the sun will rise tomorrow" but we take her point.

StanfordScout09 wonders what VanDerveer thinks about the 2009-10 season nationally and asks which teams are likely to come out on top and which teams might be sleepers?

Honestly I focus so much more on us. I think we might be playing everyone that's pretty good! We're playing so many teams that were in the NCAA tournament like Rutgers, Connecticut, Duke, Tennessee… We're playing a terrific schedule and we'll really be focused on those teams. I think people nationally have talked about Georgia maybe being a sleeper team. That's what I've heard.

How would you describe the general state of the game compared to ten or fifteen years ago in terms of level of play?

There is more depth and breadth to the game. There are more good players. But when I think back ten years ago, players like Kate Starbird and Vanessa Nygaard would still be great players today, as would someone like Olympia Scott. But there are more players and so much more basketball going on now all the time. These kids just play so much more basketball. I don't know that that's always good. I'll be in Oregon for example (at the End of the Trail tournament) and there will be maybe 200 teams playing. The same thing is happening all over the country. So there's just more kids playing, which is good.

How do you evaluate a young player to project how she will develop in college?

A lot of it in really young kids is looking for some combinations of skills, basically ball handling, passing, shooting. Do they have court sense? When you watch as much basketball as I do or (Associate Head Coach) Amy (Tucker) watches or (Assistant Coaches) Kate (Paye) and Bobbie (Kelsey) watch, I mean you watch game and game and game and game, player and player and player and player, your eye goes to certain things and the skilled players really stand out.

In so many college basketball games, the officiating seems very inconsistent, with either too much allowed, especially in the paint, or too many "ticky-tack" fouls called. Is officiating THAT hard to do well for those who are trained and experienced? Why is officiating so universally lamented as being poor? Do we expect too much?

I think officiating is a skill set in the same way that maybe playing or coaching is. There are some officials, just like there are coaches and players, that are better than others. They do things more consistently. It is a challenge when officiating is not cut and dry. It's not like a number. There is interpretation. Any time there is interpretation there is room for someone to do it one way and someone else to do it another way. Sometimes it's just the inconsistency that is the problem. Officiating is a skill set that some people, they can pass the written tests, they know the rules, but they don't have a feel for the game.

Personally I think in the Pac-10 the game of women's basketball should be officiated advantage-disadvantage so that a big, physical bruiser player who is not skilled can't just use football moves or wresting moves to take away the athleticism and the skill set of maybe a Kate Starbird-type player. You don't let someone just grab and hold someone like Jayne. The problem is that we play a game that gets called one way here and then we go in the tournament and all of a sudden nothing is called. They want to act like, you know, it's East Coast basketball and all. But the game to me right now is much too physical and that's why we have so many injuries. When I watch the (high school) kids play in the summer they clobber each other. I don't think that's good for the game.

Have you ever discussed your views with the powers that be?

Yeah but they don't listen. I did discuss it. I personally am not a yeller and screamer at the officials. I try to feel that the officials are trying to do their best job. I might not always agree with it but it's up to me and our team to adjust.

Are there any specific calls that really tend to bug you?

I think when someone gets clobbered, times when someone really could get hurt, or the opposite, just really ticky-tack stuff like three-seconds that's called way too fast or a tiny hand check that had no consequence on the game itself. I like the idea of advantage-disadvantage, where they make sure that someone's not doing something physical like pushing or whatever to get an advantage.

So you are less troubled by the physical play when the officials do a good job of ensuring that it is not used to gain a significant advantage?

Yeah but not extremely physical though where you have a saddle on them and they can't move or they're being held. Things are less physical internationally in a way and I kind of like how that is called.

Do you play basketball anymore?

I played up until last summer when I hurt my Achilles (tendon). Kids want me to play at basketball camp but I say no. I just want to enjoy the rest of my summer. I do too many other things. I do not want to get hurt.

What kind of player were you? What did you do well?

I was a point guard. I'm a good passer. I get teased that I'm a good screener. I play really good help defense. I box out well. But I love to pass more than anything else. I'm not a great shooter but I would take the ball to the basket, get a lay-up or knock somebody down getting there. (The Bootleg wonders what advantage-disadvantage officiating would make of that?)

Amy (Tucker) and Bobbie (Kelsey) are more shooters on our staff. Kate (Paye) is a defender. As a player I was always designing plays in my mind or thinking about what we were running. We were playing one time and the other team was playing us in a triangle-and-two leaving me open. I knew what they were in but I didn't know what to do. I said uh oh, I think I've got to shoot. I've always been more a student of the game and enjoyed playing from that perspective.

This is the last question in our lengthy Q & A series. Do you have any parting words to close out the proceedings?

We've had a great summer with basketball camp and traveling for recruiting. We're really excited about the upcoming season and the trip to Italy. We're optimistic about getting everyone healthy, maybe not all of them right away in the beginning but we don't need people for Italy. They just need to be ready to eat gelatos for that. Everything is going really well. Thanks to all our great fans.

Many thanks to Tara VanDerveer for gamely and graciously answering the flood of questions posed to her over the past few months. Previous installments of this Q & A series are linked below.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX


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