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Siblings Without Rivalry For Tara, Heidi Vanderveer, Coaching Is A Sharing Profession

‘Hit it baby, hit it,” hollered the Eastern Washington women’s basketball fan. Clank, another misfire by the Eagles.

“You’ve got plenty of time Eastern!” cried the same spectator, a woman in her 40s, whose voice grew more raspy with every Eastern missed opportunity.

Big sister was into it Saturday night, leaning forward, elbows on knees, standing and shouting while nearly everyone else remained seated.

Big sister, Tara VanDerveer, was watching as little sister, Heidi VanDerveer, coached the Eagles against Portland State. “She’s probably the only one I’ve ever heard,” said Heidi, the Eagles’ third-year coach whose team lost to the Vikings 48-36. “I think everybody did.”

The only voice she’s ever heard and the only time big sis has had a chance to watch li’l sis work.

Tara, 11th-year coach of the Stanford women’s basketball team, zipped up to Cheney after her Cardinal team played (and defeated) Washington State in a made-for-TV Saturday matinee game.

Tara, 43, never had the chance to watch her youngest sister Heidi, 32, play or coach. A non-stop agenda, coaching on the international level and a 10-1/2-year age difference can do that.

Sure, there was the time when Heidi served as Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s graduate assistant during the Volunteers’ 1986 and 1987 Final Four seasons. But Tara was a spectator and Heidi didn’t have much say-so in the Vols’ game plan.

When Tara landed her first head coaching job at the University of Idaho in 1978-79, Heidi was playing junior high hoops in South Carolina. Along the way, Heidi has helped Tara run basketball camps.

“I’ve been learning things from her since I was 10,” said Heidi.

Learning and watching. This past summer, the VanDerveer siblings - three sisters and one brother - along with their mom, Rita, watched as Tara coached the U.S. Olympic team to gold.

“It’s much harder watching than coaching,” said Tara from her fifth-row seat behind the Eagles bench. “You have control of your own team. It’s different when it’s someone else’s team.”

Control and success, trademarks of Tara. She has coached the Cardinal to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, not including last season when she took a leave of absence to coach the national team.

Stanford, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, won national titles in 1989-90 and 1991-92 and this season has a 20-1 record, 8-1 in the Pacific-10 Conference. In the past two years, Tara has personally compiled an 83-1 record, her only loss coming with Stanford against Old Dominion in December.

The Eagles are struggling, winning just four games on the season and losing 14. They’re in last place in the Big Sky Conference with a 1-7 record.

But in the eyes of the older VanDerveer, the potential is there and Eastern’s Reese Court could provide a great atmosphere to make it happen.

“I think they’re playing good defense. And they’re rebounding well. … They’re not shooting with a whole lot of confidence,” said Tara midway through the second half. “But it’s a great crowd for a 4-13 team. They’ve got to get it going. They’ve got to make the fans get rowdy. They’ve got to make some plays.”

It didn’t happen, as Eastern shot 25 percent from the floor and suffered its fifth consecutive loss.

Afterward in Eastern’s dressing room, Tara turned classroom professor and offered her sister’s team her observations and encouragement.

“She said something about every player. If not by name, by number,” Heidi said. “And she told them, “You’re going to determine what the future holds.”’

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos

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