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Editor’s note: This is 49th in a series counting down the Top 50 moments in Iowa Hawkeyes women’s athletics history in the 50 days leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX in June.
Iowa women’s basketball started the 1992-93 season with a “dark, dark cloud over us.”
“It was a really, really rough time,” said Angie Lee, who was an assistant coach under C. Vivian Stringer at the time. “Bill was the father figure for all of us. He just was that important to us.”
Bill was Stringer’s husband. He died at age 47 shortly before the season.
But a year that started with tragedy ended with history. Iowa women’s basketball advanced to its first and only Final Four in 1993.
“Even though there was this deep sadness, all of a sudden, you can just see everybody say, ‘We’ve got to step up another notch — each and every one of us,’” Lee said. “I’m talking from managers to athletic trainers, to every player and every coach.”
Iowa lost just one of its first 24 games despite Stringer missing about a month of the season.
Bill Stringer’s death was certainly the biggest challenge the 1993 team faced, but the Hawkeyes had some smaller hurdles, too.
The University of Iowa booked a Guns N’ Roses concert in March at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and the electric guitar chords of “Welcome to the Jungle” trumped Iowa’s opportunity to play at home in the NCAA Tournament.
The Iowa-Old Dominion game that was supposed to happen in Iowa City instead happened in Norfolk, Va., in a “little gym that was packed,” Lee said.
Iowa grabbed a 26-point win despite the scheduling-snafu-induced road game. Guns N’ Roses signed a poster for the Hawkeyes, which they hung in the locker room.
After a 13-point win over Auburn in the Sweet 16, Iowa had to face Pat Summitt and Tennessee to go to the Final Four.
The Hawkeyes built a comfortable second-half lead en route to a 72-56 win against the team Lee described as the “gold standard for so long.”
“It seemed that every time we thought we had an answer, your girls said no,” Stringer recalls Summitt later telling her in her book “Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph.”
Stringer said she felt Bill’s presence in the moments after the game.
“I felt that he had somehow helped us to this place, and a tremendous calmness came over me,” Stringer wrote in her book.
She didn’t dwell on the historic win for long, telling Lee and her staff that night, “OK, it’s not over. Let’s focus.”
The Hawkeyes had a national championship in their sights, but Ohio State spoiled those aspirations with a 73-72 overtime victory. Had guard Tia Jackson not sprained her ankle in the first half, Lee thought Iowa would’ve won the game.
“What a competitive game it was,” Jackson told The Gazette in 2018. “I remember (freshman) Katie Smith got by me for a key basket. I've gone over that play in my mind so many times.“
With the season over, players and coaches then had their opportunity to “really mourn” the loss of Bill Stringer.
“Our floodgates could open,” Lee said. “We didn’t have a chance to just drop and mourn (during the season).”
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