The United States has won the last five Olympic gold medals in women’s basketball with teams led by five different coaches, Tara VanDerveer, Nell Fortner, Van Chancellor, Anne Donovan and Geno Auriemma.
In fact, since the women began playing for gold in 1976, nine different coaches have led the nine teams, counting the late Sue Gunter’s 1980 squad, which did not compete because of the USA boycott of the summer games.
A different coach for each Olympic quadrennial constitutes a precedent.
But that concept may be changing.
Carol Callan, the head of the USA women’s basketball program, said on Tuesday the sport’s governing body has not discussed, but not dismissed, the possibility of inviting Auriemma, the long-time UConn coach, to return for at least the 2014 World Championships.
“You know, that’s like asking a woman who delivers a baby at 4:45 at 4:50 when they are going to have another,” said Callan, now in Puerto Rico with the U18 team at the FIBA World Championships.
“At this point, I no idea what the future is going to bring. Geno and I didn’t discuss it during our time together. We never had that conversation. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t at least thinking about it.
“We don’t really have any rules [that apply to the process]. There are many great coaches in the country who would be worthy of the opportunity and we’ll proceed when the time is right.
“But [regarding Auriemma] you can never say never. We are open [to the idea of a repeat coach], but remember we’ve never done it before.”
Whether he wants to return will certainly be one of the questions Auriemma is asked Thursday morning when he holds his post-Olympic press conference in Storrs.
I asked Auriemma in July at USA Basketball’s final domestic Olympic training camp in Washington if he’d be interested in “serving a second term if nominated.”
Geno smiled and joked, “I’m more worried whether I’ll live through the first one.”
Not only did he live, USA Basketball thrived, sailing to the gold with just one minor misstep [the first half against Australia in the semifinals].
His team, which included six former UConn stars, comported itself with style and dignity on and off the floor, which made a great impression on USA Basketball’s staff.
Would they like to have Auriemma back in 2016? You bet they would.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski just completed his second straight gold medal term as the men’s coach and will not come back for the 2016 games in Rio,
Callan said there is no rush in making a decision. Winning the gold means the USA does not need to qualify for the 2014 World Championship next year.
Auriemma was hired in April 2009, more than three years before his Olympic team landed in London. Callan said that time frame could stay the same or even be pushed back into late 2013.
There are also many qualified coaches to consider, including Auriemma’s assistant, DePaul coach Doug Bruno, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault (a 2008 assistant), Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and other WNBA coaches like Brian Agler of Seattle and Dan Hughes of San Antonio.
But one thing seems clear: The respect USA Basketball has for the job Auriemma did is abundant.
“He understands how appreciative we are of him and his staff,” Callan said. “When we left each other [after the games] he said, ‘Let’s talk in couple of days’ and I’m thinking, ‘How is possible that we wouldn’t?’”
What Callan wouldn’t comment on is how the pending lawsuit, in which Auriemma is named as lead defendant in an employment discrimination suit against the NBA by security official Kelley Hardwick, would impact USA Basketball’s decision about 2016.
However if all things are equal, consider this: The 2016 team could feature Olympic vets like UConn’s Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and perhaps newcomers like Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or even Morgan Tuck.
How would that be any different that 2012?
Could Geno go back-to-back and belly-to-belly for 2016 gold in Rio? Yes he could.
And it’s probably going to be up to him.
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