SAN ANTONIO — Maybe time does heal all wounds.
The once-simmering feud between Oklahoma and Stanford has ebbed over the last few seasons, cooling what used to be one of the most bitter rivalries in women’s basketball.
The Cardinal and Sooners once were more likely to toss elbows and barbs than bouquets. But as both teams prepare for today’s NCAA semifinal game, a noticeable thaw has surfaced.
"We’ve had a good rivalry with Oklahoma,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "They got us down, and then we kind of came back at ‘em. But we haven’t kept it going year in and out like we have with other programs.”
Stanford and OU represent polar opposites. VanDerveer and Sherri Coale took different approaches in everything from their sideline demeanor and hairstyles to their means of building a program.
VanDerveer is a poster girl for the old order of the sport, underscored by national championships in 1990 and 1992 and eight trips to the Final Four. Coale has built the Sooners into one of women’s basketball’s new powers, making three Final Four appearances this decade.
And along the way, the two teams had several memorable encounters. Stanford guard Susan King (now Borchardt) sustained a season-ending knee injury during a game against the Sooners in December 2000 when she was taken off her feet by OU guard LaNeishea Caufield.
Three months later, Stanford was sent back to Norman for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Emotions ran high when VanDerveer termed King’s injury "unnecessary and avoidable.” Coale rebutted those comments by showing media members a videotape of the play and challenging reporters to make their own determination.
OU won that game, but the Cardinal has claimed all three games since. The last two have ended the Sooners’ season – in the second round in 2004 and the Sweet 16 in San Antonio two years later.
"The only time we meet Stanford is in the NCAA Tournament,” Coale said.