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 September, 2009


 Edenborn's C. Vivian Stringer Hall of Fame Induction

Another Fayette County Hall of Famer

1925 Uniontown High School graduate Charles “Chuck” Hyatt was given a high honor in 1959. When the recently formed Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield , Mass. announced its first list of inductees, Hyatt’s name was on it.

He’d led Uniontown’s 1925 WPIAL and Pennsylvania State Championship team, the University of Pittsburgh’s 1928 and 1930 national championship teams, and he’d been a nine time (two in college, and seven as a member of AAU teams) All-American..

Hyatt certainly earned his place among the legends of basketball.

Move over Chuck Hyatt. C. Vivian Stringer has arrived.

Now there are two Fayette Countians among the ranks of the greats of basketball.

Stringer, a 1966 German High School graduate, was officially inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11th.

I used the word “official” because anybody who’s ever taken a close look at her illustrious coaching record would know there was never an “if” she would gain admittance to the Hall, but “when.”

Stringer’s 800-plus coaching victories rank her third on the all-time list among women’s basketball coaches. She’s the first coach to lead three different teams to NCAA Final Fours (Cheyney State in 1982, the University of Iowa in 1993 and Rutgers University – where she’s still the coach - in 2000 and 2007). She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

She earned an Olympic Gold Medal as an assistant coach of the 2004 Women’s Olympic basketball team.

Nike, the shoe giant, has even honored Stringer by naming the 35,000-square-foot C. Vivian Stringer Child Development Center in Beaverton , Oregon in her honor.

Her induction, as you can see (with my obviously poor pun), was a slam dunk.

Her induction weekend, I might add, was as exciting as her career has been so far.

That night, she shared the stage with arguably the greatest basketball player in history – Michael Jordan.

Allow me to correct that. Jordan shared the stage with Stringer.

The induction ceremony had to be moved from the Hall of Fame to Springfield ’s Symphony Hall to accommodate the large crowd. It was a night that crowd may never forget.

Jordan and Stringer were joined by their fellow Hall of Fame inductees John Stockton, David Robinson and Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

During the pre-ceremony news conference that day, Stringer offered a bit of her acceptance speech, with the hint that she planned to carry her memories Edenborn , Pennsylvania on stage with her later than night.

“It almost catches my breath to think that I would be honored on this stage. And I’ll have an opportunity to be a part of basketball history, is a dream come true. Especially for a coal miner’s daughter from this place called Edenborn,” she told reporters.

“This is so special to me, and nothing I could have possible dreamed of,” added the woman who, during the induction ceremony, would say that reaching the pinnacle of a sport she wasn’t allowed to play in high school – was really enough to ignite the passions that have stayed with her throughout the years.

“The thing that bothered me,” she said during her acceptance speech, “is I loved this game called basketball. But I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to play. Because Monday through Thursday I would work out with the guys, teaching them the things they needed to do. But then on Fridays they put the uniforms on. I can remember thinking ‘how is this fair?’”

Well, it wasn’t. But C. Vivian Stringer has devoted most of her adult life to make it fair. Her steadfast support of women’s basketball has certainly helped elevate it.

Stringer’s emotional induction speech was full of gratitude for her associates and, especially, her family.

It was a family that had strongly supported her through modest beginnings, the death of her young husband, the debilitating effects of meningitis that has left her daughter in a wheelchair, and those now famous words uttered by morning talk show host Don Imus in 2007.

Stringer has thrived through all of it. And there is certainly proof she is indeed a winner. Not just on a basketball court, but she contracted cancer and she beat it too.

She mentioned all of those things during her acceptance speech.

And Jordan, himself, took the time during his acceptance speech to refer to Stringer twice. He talked about her use of the phrase “trials and tribulations” and how we call have to overcome them at times.

And he talked about his association to Stringer because of their mutual connection to Nike. “I’ve known Viv for a long time, and her and my father and my mom spent a lot of time on Nike trips.”

Earlier he told reporters, "We would sit up nights and we would just talk about the game of basketball." That means Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, would seek counsel from Edenborn’s Stringer, the basketball coach. Hum.

That may be a stretch, but I still wonder if he’d put that in writing.

But regardless of the heights she’s reached - and will surely continue to reach - it is heartening to know that “Viv” keeps Fayette County in her heart.

“I grew up in a small coal mining town. To me, this is the most unusual, unexpected thing in the world. I grew up in Edenborn, and it’s not even in the map,” she told the Symphony Hall audience.

To me, and to use another bad pun, Stringer had just thrown up an air ball.

Edenborn IS on the map. And it’s there, more than ever, because of a coal miner’s.

Thanks to Stringer, Edenborn and all of Fayette County, for that matter, is shining every bit as brightly as New York City.