May 29, 2024
Paye said people praised her patience for not leaving Stanford for other jobs, but she said this was the only place she ever wanted to be.

STANFORD – Kate Paye’s first staff meeting as head coaching didn’t get off to a smooth start when she hesitated to sit in Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s chair.

There are sure to be even bigger challenges when it comes to succeeding the coach with the most wins in college basketball history, but Paye said she has been set up to succeed.

“It was awkward to sit in the chair that normally Tara sits in, but it was the most obvious one,” Paye said. “I feel so well-prepared for this opportunity. I know Stanford, I love Stanford. I know our players, their parents, their families. I know there are challenges ahead but I feel totally prepared and ready to get to work.”

After 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Stanford, including the past eight as associate head coach, Paye was introduced as the new head of the program at a campus news conference Wednesday. VanDerveer, who announced her retirement last week after 38 seasons in charge of the program, sat in the front row.

Former Stanford’s women’s basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer listens to new women’s basketball head coach Kate Paye during a press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Stanford University. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Paye said people praised her patience for not leaving for other jobs, but she said this was the only place she ever wanted to be.

She was born at Stanford Hospital and her entire immediate family graduated from Stanford. Her dad and older brother played football and her sister has two degrees from the school.

Because of that, she said she didn’t consider the head coaching job to be a dream job.

Stanford’s new women’s basketball head coach Kate Paye speaks during a press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Stanford University. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

“I don’t really think of it like that because I am so lucky and blessed that I’ve been living my dream,” Paye said. “Since I was a young girl I dreamed of being a part of this program, and I’ve gotten to do that as a player, as an alum, and as a coach.”

Paye walked on as a freshman for the 1990-91 season and was a two-time captain for a team that won the 1992 title and made the Final Four in 1995.

Paye said the rest of the coaching staff is returning, with Director of Player Development and former Cardinal great Jeanette Pohlen will slide into the vacant assistant role. Paye said that the team’s playing style will also remain the same, which should help the players make the transition after the departure of VanDerveer, who won 1,216 games, including three NCAA titles.

“The fact that our whole staff is back and familiar with me, hopefully that sense of continuity provides a tremendous sense of comfort,” Paye said. “Most of them said we kind of knew this would happen and we kind of feel like it’s going to be the same.”

Paye is taking over at a challenging time for Stanford, which must navigate new NIL rules and players who can transfer without restrictions while also transitioning to its first season in the ACC.

The Cardinal must also replace its three best players from this past season. Center Cameron Brink (17.4 points, 11.9 rebounds) was selected No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in Tuesday’s WNBA Draft and Hannah Jump (10.6 points), the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, has exhausted her eligibility.

Junior Kiki Iriafen (19.4 points, 11.0 rebounds) entered the transfer portal last week soon after VanDerveer announced her retirement. She attended VanDerveer’s farewell news conference but was not present at Paye’s introduction and was not mentioned when Paye listed all the players who will be on the team next season.

Stanford’s new women’s basketball head coach Kate Paye poses for photos with her players during a press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Stanford University. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Iriafen continues a trend of top players leaving Stanford through the portal without being replaced by incoming upperclassmen – No. 1 overall recruit Lauren Betts transferred to UCLA in 2023. But Paye said that Stanford will continue working through the traditional recruiting cycle.

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“Our roster will never be built through the portal,” Paye said. “Our recruiting pipeline will always be through high schools, finding fantastic student-athletes who value education and can play basketball at a really high level. (The portal) is a tool that we can use, but it will never be our sledgehammer.”

Paye said that VanDerveer discussed retiring as far back as 2011, but Paye didn’t believe it would happen until she saw the announcement. While she said Wednesday was an exciting day for her, it was also bittersweet knowing that she will no longer be on the bench with VanDerveer.

“I’m going to miss being in that foxhole with you every day,” Paye said. “Thank you for all you have done for me and my family, thank you for all you have done to prepare me for this opportunity, thank you for entrusting me with your life’s work.”

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