C. Vivian Stringer, Head Coach of Rutgers University women’s basketball team, will speak at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Monthly Luncheon Meeting on Thursday, November 6. The meeting will take place at the Marriott Princeton Hotel and Conference Center at Forrestal and will begin at 11:15 a.m. The luncheon is part of a year-long campaign to promote the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship postseason tournament.

Cost to attend this special luncheon is $35 for Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce members and $45 for non-Chamber members. Reservations are required and can be made online at www.princetonchamber.org or by calling the Chamber office at 609-924-1776. Media wishing to attend the event may contact Christine Pileckas at 609-656-3399.

Rutgers University will host first and second round games on Saturday, March 21, and Monday, March 23. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and Rider University will be hosting the Trenton Regional, more commonly known as the “Sweet Sixteen” and “Elite Eight,” at the Sovereign Bank Arena on Sunday, March 29, and Tuesday, March 31. This celebrated event will be an opportunity to showcase the Mercer County region on a national stage, as well as the excitement of Division I women’s basketball.

Stringer became just the third women’s coach, eighth coach overall and first African-American to record her 800th win this past season. Entering her 14th season on the sidelines at Rutgers, Stringer was the first coach — men’s or women’s — to take three different schools to the Final Four (Cheyney University in 1982, the University of Iowa in 1993, and Rutgers in 2000). She led the Scarlet Knights to their second Final Four in 2007 and the program’s first national title game appearance.

Stringer was named one of the “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports” by Sports Illustrated in 2003 and in 2007 was tabbed to the “100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America” list.

Stringer will share a remarkable life story featured in her New York Times bestseller, “Standing Tall, A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph.” Guests attending the event will receive a complimentary copy of the book, which shows there is more to this woman than basketball.

Stringer will have an introduction given by longtime friend and mentor John Chaney, former head men’s basketball coach at Temple University and Hall of Fame basketball coach. In his 24 years as head coach, the 74-year-old Chaney guided Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five NCAA regional finals. He was twice named national coach of the year and entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.

First & Second round game tickets are available via phone by calling 1-866-445-4678, at the Rutgers Ticket Office, or by e-mailing tickets@scarletknights.com. Trenton Regional All-Session Tickets, with access to all games on March 29 and 31 at the Sovereign Bank Arena, are on sale now. Tickets are available via phone by calling 609-656-3224, at the Sovereign Bank Arena Box Office, or online at http://www.sovereignbankarena.com/events/details/?id=197.

Global Spectrum, the fastest growing firm in the public assembly facility management field with more than 45 facilities throughout the United States and Canada, manages the Sovereign Bank Arena. The Philadelphia-based company is part of one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment firm Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League, Flyers Skate Zone, a series of community ice skating rinks, Comcast SportsNet, a regional sports programming network, Ovations Food Services, a food and beverage services provider, New Era Tickets, a full-service ticketing and marketing product for public assembly facilities, and Front Row Marketing Services, a commercial rights sales company. Comcast-Spectacor owns three minor league baseball teams — the Bowie Baysox, the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Frederick Keys — all affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles.

Stringer’s Tragedies & Triumphs

C. Vivian Stringer, the celebrity coach of Rutgers’ women’s basketball team, lives and breathes basketball. But as a single mom with two sons and a special-needs daughter, she knows about struggling for work/life balance. As an African American from an Appalachian coal-mining town, she knows about discrimination in the workplace. Yet she came from a close-knit family where excellence was expected, so she also knows how to instill those values in an ever-changing family, her team of Scarlet Knights.

Stringer was the first coach, man or woman, to take three teams from different schools — Cheyney State, the University of Iowa, and Rutgers — to the NCAA Final Four. At dirt-poor Cheyney, the team started out owning only two regulation basketballs and went on to make sports history. But meanwhile Stringer was keeping vigil at the bedside of her toddler daughter, whose meningitis had gone undiagnosed and who would never be able to walk or talk.

With each successive triumph came tragedy. In Iowa, Bill Stringer, the love of her life and her rock solid support, dropped dead at age 47. And no sooner did she get to Rutgers than she learned she had breast cancer. To protect her children, who were mourning the loss of their father, she kept that a secret. Only for her new book, “Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph” (co-authored with Laura Tucker, Random House, $24.95), does she reveal why she acquired a reputation of being unfriendly to the media; she had shut herself off from nearly everything but her job. And then, after her 2006-2007 team covered itself with glory at the NCAA championships, along came the notorious racist/sexist Imus quip that shone harsh fame on the young players.

As a single mom, with a special needs child, Stringer says she sometimes felt like she was drowning, at home and at work. Coaching “is a harder job than most to balance with a young family,” she says. “My own mom’s presence was so warm and comfortable to me. There’s that guilt of, why don’t you just stay at home. But I’m not my mom, and I have to provide for my family.”

She treasures — and passes on to others — some early advice she received from the late track star Willye White, a five-time Olympian: One can’t be the best coach all the time, nor the best mom all the time. All you can do is your best, and then forgive yourself for the rest.

From her mother, she learned how to elicit hard work: From her father she adopted his method of family meetings, where each of the five siblings had the chance to speak up about what was good and what could be better. “The truth may hurt, but I will always give you the tools you need to overcome and become what you want to be,” she writes.

She can’t abide slackers and thinks anyone who doesn’t do their very best is poisonous to a sports or workplace team. “Going halfway is disrespectful to me, to your teammates, to your opponents, and to the game.”

Born in 1948, Stringer grew up in a color-blind mining community and encountered racism for the first time when she was obviously the best at the cheerleading tryouts but didn’t make the team. Someone from the NAACP wanted to make an issue of it. She was afraid, but her father told her that she needed to think about future generations: “There comes a time when you must stand, because if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” he said.

At the almost-all white Slippery Rock College, she rose at 4:30 a.m. for a job, sweeping the dorm lounges, so none of her fellow students would see her with a broom in her hand. When she arrived in a cream-colored suit to interview for a coaching job at Syracuse, the personnel officer thought she was the cleaning woman and directed her to a broom closet.

“I am more likely in my own mind to be successful when people tell me I can’t do something. I am going to be angry and get fired up.”

New Jersey seemed a refuge from all that. Then the Imus comment roiled the 2006-’07 team that won the Big East and stopped just one game short of the national championship. Stringer realizes that neither she nor the students’ parents had prepared them for the shock and stigma of discrimination. She writes, “It takes a great deal of confidence to hold your head high after you’ve been humiliated..”

In spite of all her successes, and though she has a strong Christian faith, Stringer wrestles with the past. Just like she pores over the game tapes, she revisits her decisions. At her daughter Nina’s bedside she had prayed for Nina just to be able to smile again. Nina now has a beautiful smile but needs 24/7 care. “To this day I wonder if I should have prayed for more,” Stringer writes.

Stringer ruminates on whether, next season, she can motivate that player more effectively. “Basketball is a discipline, and if each person must make a sacrifice in order for them to reach the Promised Land, then they must make that sacrifice,” she says. “If we lose but I know that we played the game right — that we were prepared, that we were intense, that we executed what we said we were going to execute — then I can sleep. If you don’t, then I can’t, and you won’t,” she says. “At the end of the day, while we don’t ever accept defeat, we can be at peace with having done our best.”

This article has been excerpted from a story that ran in the May 7 issue of U.S. 1.

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