Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer mentioned today during a Zoom press conference that one of her last of about 300 text messages on Friday night was from her understudy, Arizona coach Adia Barnes.
Barnes, a fifth-year coach, occasionally seeks advice from VanDerveer, 23 years her senior at 67 years old. Her text late Friday was after she coached Arizona to the national championship game opposite Stanford with a win over UConn. The Cardinal got past South Carolina earlier in the night.
“I sent one to her congratulating her,” VanDerveer said. “Obviously, we’re going to compete, and I want the national championship trophy to go back to Palo Alto (Calif.).
“But I’m really proud of Adia and really proud of the Pac-12 to have two teams in the national championship game.”
The championship Sunday will be at 3 p.m. Tucson time on ESPN.
Barnes has commented before about VanDerveer taking the time to mentor her on how to handle situations as a coach with personnel, outside influences, scheduling, etc.
“She is someone that I have asked questions to. She is someone in the conference that is always going to be honest, and it’s never honesty to benefit Stanford,” Barnes said. “I think it’s very rare to have someone who supports you, wants to do well but then competes against you.
“She’s very secure and she should be. She just wants to help women develop and wants them to grow. She also is an advocate for the Pac-12 and women’s basketball. I have the utmost respect for her.”
VanDerveer, who coached against Barnes when Barnes played at Arizona from 1994-98, was asked about the dynamic of coaching against for a national championship against somebody she has taken under wing.
“The whole year has been strange (with COVID-19 protocols), and our team has been just fantastic (and) has been very flexible,” VanDerveer said. “It’s not different for me to see young coaches that I’ve known as players., I’m proud of them. I’m proud that they’re working so hard in the women’s game, and that they’re giving back.”
VanDerveer added that she wants to “help them but not help them beat us.”
“We want to compete and we want to win a national championship,” she said. “It’s exciting to see a coach like Adia do so well. … I just want to focus on our team and helping our team be successful on Sunday.”
VanDerveer is the career leading in coaching victories with 1,124 in her 35th year as a head coach at Idaho, Ohio State and Stanford. Her career record is 1,124-255.
Barnes is 89-65, including a 69-25 mark in the last three years when Arizona has gained more of a national identity.
VanDerveer commented that Arizona’s upstart status is great for the game.
Of the matchup of two Pac-12 teams competing for a title — the first time that it’s happened — she said, “This is not something that a lot of people could have imagined, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, and it’s really, really exciting.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.