Iowa icon returns to the Big Ten

BY KYLE MANN | OCTOBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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ROSEMONT, Illinois — There was much discussion at Big Ten media day on Thursday about the Big Ten’s expansion to 14 teams this season, and as the conference welcomes Rutgers and Maryland, Iowa will welcome the return of a figure from Hawkeye lore.

C. Vivian Stringer was the head coach for the Hawkeyes from 1983 to 1995 and was the program’s coach with the most victories (269) until February of this year, when current head Hawkeye Lisa Bluder surpassed her. 

Stringer has been the head coach at Rutgers since leaving Iowa. The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee has also won three Coach of the Year awards, with two of them coming during her tenure in Iowa City in 1988 and 1993.

Stringer enjoyed her time with the Hawkeyes, and still looks back on the school fondly.

“It was very personal, it wasn’t a job; it was never a job. It’s like my second home,” Stringer said. “Remember the statement ‘Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye?’ That’s the way that goes.”

As highly as Stringer speaks of Iowa, her new peers around the Big Ten are equally as appreciative of her arrival with Rutgers, what she does as a coach, and what she brings to the conference.

“They certainly help make an elite conference even more elite,” Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said. “I wasn’t even born when Vivian started coaching, so I have the upmost respect.”

Now, however, respect aside, coaches around the Big Ten must begin to prepare for how to out-coach Stringer and defeat a strong Rutgers team that finished 28-9 overall last season playing in the American Conference — formerly known as the Big East.

Likewise, Stringer has already began preparing to take on new opponents such as the Hawkeyes.

“I know that they’re hard-nosed, have great skill, and great heart,” Stringer said. “They can shoot the heck out of the ball, and [Sam] Logic is a monster. Now coming back, they’ve had another year; that scares me. That scares me.”

The Hawkeyes will not host Rutgers in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season, playing only a single matchup on the road in Piscataway, New Jersey. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, however, Stringer has had the chance to make her first return trip to Iowa City, in 2005.

Stringer said that given her intimate personal connection with Iowa City, her first time returning was somewhat emotional: feeling uncomfortable on the visiting bench and recalling memories of where her family used to sit in the stands, including her late husband, William.

She is grateful to have already had that first return trip and believes she will be able to more fully appreciate her time whenever she does return as a Big Ten opponent.

When she does, Bluder expects the Iowa community to welcome Stringer with open arms and with the adoration and respect she deserves.

“I’m looking forward to having her back in the league; I have so much respect for her,” Bluder said. “It should mean a lot to our community because she’s an icon in women’s basketball. To bring her back, it should be amazing.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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