© 1999 by Mariah Burton Nelson ('78)
A speech delivered at the 25-Year Celebration of Stanford Women's Basketball,
Stanford, California, April 13, 1999
We were the Pinney generation. We wore them in the days before Stanford
issued practice jerseys -- or, for that matter, uniforms.
This is a Pinney. This is how you put it on, sort of like an apron, with the
strings in front. Then you tie it in the back, but inevitably, no matter how
well you've tied it, after you run up and down court a few times, just when
you're going up for a layup or jumpshot, it comes loose and flaps up into
Keep this in mind when you look at our stats. Half the time, we were shooting
We were the Pinney generation and we were also the angry generation. Until
1976, we weren't allowed in Maples Pavilion, but instead had to play across
campus in Roble -- which is smaller, I believe, than Tara VanDerveer's office
today. Until 1977, there were no scholarships. We didn't travel to Hawaii or
Italy or France; our big trip each year was a bus ride to Reno, Nevada.
So we were angry. My teammates Sonia Jarvis, Stephanie Erickson and I spent
all our free time staging sit-ins in the athletic director's office,
insisting he implement Title IX, which had passed in 1972.
We were the Pinney generation and we were the angry generation but we were
also the grateful generation, because throughout most of the seventies, our
coaches were volunteers who cared enough about us and the Stanford program
that they spent many long hours teaching us about basketball, and about
success. These coaches of the seventies, all of whom were volunteer or
underpaid, included Pam Strathairn, Shirley Schoof, Gay Coburn, Ken Morgan,
Dotty McCrea, and Sue Rojcewicz. This was long before Stanford women's
basketball was associated with two national championships, or two Olympic
athletes, or one Olympic coach, or for that matter, I admit, even victory.
All of these coaches taught us to strive for victory, though, and along the
way they gave us permission to be outstanding: to be strong, to be
aggressive, to be competitive, to embrace victory unapologetically.
Even today, I think it takes courage for women to be outstanding. We still
get the message that we should be small, dainty, delicate, decorative, and
deferential. So thanks to all the seventies coaches -- and those of the 80s
and 90s and beyond -- for giving women permission to be outstanding.
In particular I'd like to thank my two coaches who are here today, Gay Coburn
and Dotty McCrea.
Gay Coburn knew that I wanted to be a writer. I'm not sure how she knew that,
because I barely knew it myself. And I only barely knew that I wanted to
write about women in sports, or that that might be possible. Nowadays there
are about a hundred fine women's sports books on the market, but in those
days there were zero. I had zero role models. Then Gay Coburn arranged for me
to have lunch with one of the only women in the country who was writing about
her own sports experience, a poet named Barbara Lamblin. That meeting helped
me begin to conceive of a career writing about women's sports, which I've
been doing for the past 20 years. So thank you, Gay, for caring about me off
the court, and for taking the time to help me imagine my future.
In my junior year, all of our ranting and raving at the athletic director
began to pay off, and Stanford finally hired two fulltime coaches, Dotty
McCrea and Sue Rojcewicz. And we finally moved into Maples Pavilion, and
received real uniforms, and began to travel a little more.
Dotty came to Stanford from Immaculata College, in Pennsylvania, where, as
the assistant coach, she had helped them win three national championships. I
think she respected me, because I was what they call coachable -- which means
I did everything she told me to do. But she wasn't sure what to make of me,
because she was an easterner, and I was very much a Californian by this time.
Stephanie and I found a stray dog, Druffy, and we would bring Druffy to
practice, and she would run up and down the sidelines, barking at us. Some of
us were also studying meditation and visualization, so we would go up there
in the stands and meditate before games. For some reason, all of this drove
Dotty crazy, and she found herself making up rules like: No dogs in the gym,
and no meditating.
But one of many enduring lessons Dotty taught me was not to let people push
me around. As a center, I had to learn to stand my ground. It was Dotty who
taught me that I had a right to be there, on the court, at the low post or
high post, and Dotty who showed me how to stand my ground, and not let anyone
push me around. This, too, is a valuable life lesson, not only for basketball
players but for all women -- and not only then, but now.
So I'm grateful to all of my coaches. I'm also grateful to my teammates:
those who were as outspoken and outrageous as I was, and those others who
simply loved the game with all their hearts, as I did.
Pinnies are like aprons: symbolic of a time when women had limited choices:
staying in the kitchen, staying in traditional roles, staying in Roble Gym.
Nowadays, we have many more choices, and much more freedom. Nowadays, all of
us from the seventies are grateful to Tara VanDerveer and to all of her teams
for making us proud to tell people that we are former Stanford basketball
In closing I'd like to say to the younger players here -- and pretty much
everyone is younger than I am -- and also to my teammates, and to all the
coaches, and to the assembled community members, family members, and fans: I
hope you, too, give yourselves permission to be outstanding, competitive, and
victorious. I hope you never let anyone push you around. And regardless of
what your goal might be, in sports or beyond, I hope you never let anything
obstruct your view of that goal: not discrimination, not self-doubt, and
certainly not, never again, a simple red Pinney.
Mariah Burton Nelson (formerly Maggie Nelson)'s latest book is called
Embracing Victory: Life Lessons in Competition and Compassion (Avon 1999).
One of her rebounding records at Stanford remains unbroken.