Foster's get-tough message shoves Vanderbilt women to top 1993 NCAA FINAL FOUR--NEW ORLEANS

April 02, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- At the first day of practice this season, Vanderbilt women's basketball coach Jim Foster showed his team a videotape he considered to be profane.

The footage was of last year's Commodores team and there were 15 clips of players being knocked to the court by their opponents.

The message Foster intended to impart was clear: Either the Commodores would get tougher or they'd have no shot at a championship.

The message got through and the Commodores (30-2) rode it all the way through a No. 1 ranking, the Southeastern Conference tournament championship and a berth in tomorrow's first game of the Final Four against Texas Tech.

All of those accomplishments are firsts for the school, and the No. 1 ranking marked the first time any Vanderbilt team had ever been atop any poll in any sport.

And the architect of this transformation is Foster, who built the St. Joseph's program from scratch in his hometown of Philadelphia before taking over in Nashville last season.

Foster, who won national Coach of the Year honors in 1985, was famous at St. Joseph's for getting scrappy, physically overmatched teams to play their best.

However, when Foster took over for Phil Lee, he found a team, anchored by 6-foot-10 junior Heidi Gillingham, the tallest player in women's basketball, with loads of potential, but little in the way of achievements.

"I was intrigued not just by the best talent in basketball, but the best young minds in basketball," Foster said of his team. "I think we just had to instill a work ethic and a little mental toughness."

Along that line, Foster, a Vietnam veteran, immediately removed the word "lady" from the Commodores' name and prodded the team to play to its potential, leading it to the East Regional final last year and past Louisiana Tech, 58-53 in the Midwest Regional final last Saturday to reach the Final Four.

Tara VanDerveer, who has coached Stanford to two national titles in three years, said: "He's a real positive person, an upbeat basketball junkie type. It's a situation where the kids are really hard workers. They're motivated and disciplined. He's got them going."

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