by Fernando Quintero
A large framed poster of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" hangs in Marianne Stanley's basement office in Harmon Gym.
"It has always grabbed my attention. Its sense of possibility, of wonder, of magic," said the new women's basketball coach.
For Stanley, her interpretation of the classic work of art couldn't be more fitting.
Stanley's hiring last April garnered its share of headlines because it was her first permanent job since 1993. That's when she was fired from the University of Southern California after filing a multimillion dollar sex-discrimination lawsuit against the school. And she took over a team that was coming off its most trying season ever.
But all of that is behind her now. For both Stanley and her players, this season brings a fresh new start.
"I am thrilled and honored to be here," said Stanley, a native of Philadelphia.
"Berkeley has a reputation for excellence, and in my view, it is my responsibility to meet that standard. It's going to be an exciting journey getting there."
A winner of five national championships as a player and a coach, Stanley is considered one of the most successful coaches in the history of women's basketball.
At Berkeley, Stanley enters her 18th season of collegiate head coaching with a career record of 380 wins to 149 losses.
"We are committed to having one of the top women's basketball programs in the country, and we believe we have found the best coach out there," said John Kasser, Cal's athletic director.
Stanley, 42, said she will challenge herself and everyone around her "to do their best every day." "It's not easy, there's a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice involved. But the payoff is a program that enjoys success at the highest level," she said.
Since 1977, when Stanley began her coaching career at women's basketball powerhouse Old Dominion College in Norfolk, Va., she has achieved nothing but elevated success.
Stanley guided the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs to three national titles championships in her 10 seasons, she made three NCAA Tournament appearances with the USC women's team and helped lead Stan-ford to a Final Four position last season.
Stanley shot her first basketball at age six. "My Uncle Jack said, 'Come on, let's go across the street to the playground and shoot some hoops,'" Stanley recalled. "After that, my childhood revolved around the playground.
"Prior to 1972, there was no federal or state mandate that said equal opportunities had to be provided to both girls and boys. Fortunately, there has been a growing recognition that young women need to exercise their bodies and be physically fit."
Today, women's basketball is booming, especially in the Bay Area.
In the spring of 1998 Cal, along with the Oakland Coliseum, is scheduled to host the NCAA Women's West Regional Championships. The following year, Stanford and San Jose State will host the women's Final Four competitions.
"Within the next three years, two of the biggest women's basketball events will take place in the Bay Area, and I want to make sure Cal has a presence.
"My goal is to develop into a nationally recognized program and to be a model for other programs," said Stanley. "It's a tall order, but I believe in the realm of possibilities."
"It would be a Cinderella story, but what a story it would be."