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VanDerveer’s longtime assistant Paye takes over as new Stanford coach

                                Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye listens to Tara VanDerveer during a news conference in Stanford, Calif., on Wednesday.
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Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye listens to Tara VanDerveer during a news conference in Stanford, Calif., on Wednesday.

STANFORD, Calif. >> Kate Paye spent nearly two decades as Stanford’s coach-in-waiting, her high energy and positive spirit shining through on the sidelines right next to Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer.

Now, it’s Paye’s turn at last. And while keeping to many of VanDerveer’s longstanding traditions, Paye has a chance to put her own mark on the storied program.

“She’s paid her dues. She’s had opportunities to be a head coach other places, and she has been incredibly loyal,” VanDerveer said. “I just cannot say enough good things about her.”

Paye is Stanford through and through — born at Stanford hospital and with her entire immediate family having attended the university. Her father and brother, both named John, played football for the Cardinal.

The 50-year-old Paye will be formally introduced as the new head coach Wednesday by athletic director Bernard Muir. When VanDerveer retired last week as the winningest NCAA coach of all time in men’s or women’s basketball and after 38 seasons at Stanford and 45 years in all, the school immediately announced it was in negotiations with Paye.

She is embracing all the challenges in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics. Stanford is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

“I feel extremely well-prepared for the opportunity,” Paye said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to be at Stanford, because this place is special.”

A former Stanford guard who played in both the American Basketball League and WNBA, Paye is well-traveled in the profession. Well-regarded as a talented and diligent recruiter — something that’s especially difficult and important given Stanford’s academic standards — she has previously served on the coaching staffs at San Diego State and Pepperdine.

Paye just completed her 17th year on the Stanford staff and eighth as associate head coach, twice named Division I Assistant Coach of the Year.

“When Bernard said I was his security blanket, I’m thinking Kate has been my security blanket. Bernard, it’s just a different blanket,” VanDerveer said. “Kate is going to be awesome. I’ve loved working with Kate. She’s brilliant, hardworking, is a great communicator. She loves Stanford and loves the players here at Stanford. No one will outwork Kate.”

Paye had multiple chances to depart for other jobs but decided to stick it out where she felt she belonged and knowing she was on the bench alongside one of the greatest to ever coach women’s basketball.

Paye would joke with VanDerveer about doubting she’d ever call it a career: “I said, ‘I won’t really believe you until I see the news conference,’ so I guess I believe her.”

She will miss VanDerveer, of course, so moving forward comes with mixed emotions. But Paye is ready to take on this next chapter, leading the Cardinal as they begin in a new conference.

“It’s kind of been one of those moments in your life where you’re so excited and you’re so sad all at once.”

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