PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- C. Vivian Stringer is back with a new outlook on life after stepping away at the end of last season because of exhaustion.
Rutgers' Hall of Fame women's basketball coach said doctors told her last February that she ought to rest. She listened, missing the end of the Scarlet Knights' season that finished with a loss to Buffalo in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I was tired and beat up. Not going to reveal what the issue was, but the doctor said, `Stop, you can't go anymore.' In a way I knew that I had done everything I could," Stringer said Wednesday. "I couldn't do any more. Glad that I was given an opportunity to take the break that I needed and relax and come back."
Stringer returned to campus in June, easing her way back, and the 71-year-old coach did some recruiting this summer. She enters her 49th season as a basketball coach, the first coach to lead three different programs to the Final Four -- at Iowa, Cheyney State and Rutgers (2000 and 2007).
"It was strange because that's the first time that I ever have been away from the game. I had never missed a practice, the only time was when my husband passed and my mom passed," she said. "It had to be something really eventful or earth-shattering that I would disrupt anything as it relates to practice. I don't miss practice because that's the only thing I take very sacred."
Stringer hadn't been sleeping more than a few hours a night. She'd been drinking a lot of coffee and taking caffeine pills for years. It all caught up with her before she took her leave.
"They told me to rest and I did. I didn't watch any games," she said. "The only game I saw was for 30 minutes was when (Rutgers player Noga Peleg Pelc) got hurt in the NCAAs. It was rest and sleeping plenty."
It's easy to think Stringer could fall back into the same habits she's developed over a 48-year coaching career. But she said Wednesday she'd made changes. Stringer mentioned an assistant coach was at her house the other night and, as midnight approached, she told the assistant it was time to go because she needed to sleep. In the past, she would have stayed up all night discussing basketball.
"Here's the door, you got to go," she recalled, laughing. "I meant that. Because I'm going to take much more control of my life. I've never done that. Basketball has run the show. It continues to be an extremely important part of my life, but you can go so far. I'm going to make judgments myself and be reasonable. I'm going to delegate things more and do what I need to do."
Stringer drinks only decaffeinated coffee now and gave up caffeine pills.
Rutgers just opened up a beautiful new practice facility that gives the women's team its own court. That's allowed Stringer to change practice times from the morning to the afternoon.
Stringer, who earned her 1,000th career victory last season, dispelled any notions that she came back for just one more year.
"I wouldn't speculate anything like that. I think that as long as I'm happy and excited and this team really energizes me, I'm grateful to them and for them," she said. "This is great because we have this facility. It's the only thing I know. I can't imagine life without basketball. As long as I'm driven. I need to be smart. That's all I'm saying."
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