Tara VanDerveer

Coach Tara VanDerveer, celebrating an Elite Eight victory over Iowa in 2009, has led Stanford to the women's Final Four three straight years.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 2009

Editor's note:

This is the third in a weeklong series on the transition from the Pac-10 Conference to the Pac-12, which happens Friday.

Today, we look back at sports columnist Greg Hansen's picks for the top 10 coaches in the 33-season history of the conference. Hansen has covered the entire Pac-10 era.

Most Pac-10 campuses have an arena, a field or a floor named to honor a coaching legend: basketball's Jack Friel at Washington State, track's Bill Hayward at Oregon, baseball's Clint Evans at Cal, and USC is in the process of building a $70 million football plant in the name of John McKay.

Some, like Arizona State and Arizona, generated so much baseball success that it gets a little crowded on the marquee. ASU's ballpark is known as Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark. At Arizona, it's Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium.

So what will Stanford do when women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer retires? Stanford is the only Pac-10 school without the name of a prominent ex-coach on a floor, a façade or a scoreboard.

VanDerveer is our choice as the top coach of the Pac-10 era, 1978-2011. Because she turned 58 this week and is coming off her seventh Final Four appearance, she is likely to add much more to her legend.

She has coached 19 Pac-10 championship teams in 25 years. Not only is she the dean of Pac-10 women's coaches, every other Pac-10 school has employed at least four women's basketball coaches in VanDerveer's reign. USC has had seven.

Since the league officially began women's basketball competition in 1987, VanDerveer is 50-0 against Washington State, 50-6 against Arizona and 49-6 against so-called rival Cal. The "best" a Pac-10 team has been able to do against VanDerveer is Washington's 12-39.

In 1996, VanDerveer took a year off to coach the USA Olympic team to a gold medal. When she returned, in 1997, Stanford went 34-2 and reached the Final Four.

Not bad for the Boston-born, New York-raised, Indiana grad who gained education as a Hoosier undergrad by watching Bob Knight's epic Indiana men's teams practice.

VanDerveer began her head coaching career at Idaho in 1978. She then went to Ohio State and in 1985-86 took over a Stanford program that was coming off a 5-23 record. Five years later Stanford won the NCAA title, finishing 32-1.

Here's our list of the 10 leading coaches of the Pac-10 era:

1. VanDerveer.

2. Mike Candrea, Arizona, softball. No coach in NCAA softball history has averaged more victories per season than Candrea's 53.1 since he arrived in Tucson 26 years ago. He has won eight NCAA championships and failed just once in that span to qualify for the Women's College World Series. In 2004, Candrea coached the USA to the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics.

3. Mark Marquess, Stanford, baseball. Two years before the Pac-10 began its baseball competition, Marquess, then 30, coached his first game at Stanford. He has since gone to 14 College World Series, winning back-to-back in 1987-88, and produced 12 Pac-10 championships. Only once across all those years, in 1993, did Stanford have a losing season.

4. Lute Olson, Arizona, basketball. It's well documented that Olson inherited a Wildcat basketball program coming off a 4-24 season. He won the Pac-10 title in Year No. 3 and was at the Final Four in Year No. 5. Olson built a program of such excellence that the Wildcats won 11 Pac-10 titles and played in 24 consecutive NCAA tournaments, winning the national championship in 1997.

5. Skip Kenney, Stanford, men's swimming. Hired in August 1979, Kenney required three years to lead the Cardinal to its first conference swimming title since 1959. He soon rolled off 30 consecutive Pac-10 championships and six times was selected NCAA men's coach of the year. Stanford has won seven NCAA titles under Kenney.

6. Linda Vollstedt, Arizona State, women's golf. Before arriving at ASU in 1980, Vollstedt coached Phoenix Alhambra High School to state golf championships in 1971 and 1977. But at ASU she accelerated the pace. The Sun Devils won six NCAA championships in nine years from 1990 to 1998, and five times Vollstedt was selected the national women's coach of the year.

7. Vin Lananna, track and field, Oregon. Lananna coached Stanford to five NCAA championships in cross country and track and field from 1992 to 2003. He then left coaching for two seasons before returning to the Pac-10 in 2005 at Oregon. He has helped the Ducks win four more NCAA championships. Lananna has coached 17 Pac-10 championships in men's and women's track and cross country and was the NCAA cross country coach of the year in 1996, 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2008.

8. Don James, Washington, football. James has coached Pac-10 teams in more Rose Bowl games, six, than any other man. His 97 conference victories (including three years in the old Pac-8) trail only UCLA's Terry Donahue, 98, who coached three more seasons. James had two superb bursts at the UW: His teams went 58-14 over six years from 1979 to 1984, and he finished on top, retiring in 1993 after going 31-5 in his final three UW seasons.

9. Valorie Kondos Field, gymnastics, UCLA. A former ballerina, Field has coached 21 seasons at UCLA and won NCAA championships six times: 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010. During her 21 Pac-10 seasons, she has won 11 league titles in one of the nation's most challenging gymnastics conferences.

10. Jim Brock, Arizona State, baseball. Before ASU entered the Pac-10, Brock was fully established on the national level. Brock died of cancer in 1994 - he was 57 - and in that short time the Sun Devils won five league titles, played in the College World Series seven times and won 50 or more games on five occasions, including a 60-13 team in 1988. ASU won the 1981 national title under Brock.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com