As he attempts to add an Olympic gold medal to his already quite full trophy case, 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team Head Coach Geno Auriemma will be reunited with a pair of former UConn stars who have overflowing trophy cases of their own.
The Hall of Fame coach – with six NCAA championships to his credit (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009) – will lead a team to the 2012 Olympics in London that includes two-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
“I am so looking forward to working with [Geno] again,” Bird said after being named to the team. “He has this unique ability to get the most out of his players.”
Bird, who now plays for the Seattle Storm in the WBNA, won titles with UConn in 2000 and 2002 and Taurasi, now of the Phoenix Mercury, won her Husky championships in 2002 and 2003.
“I’m excited about the fact that their experience and their knowledge of what it takes to win a gold medal is going to help me tremendously as we move forward,” Auriemma said.
Cream of the crop
Joining the two former Huskies on the team are a half-dozen other stars in the women’s basketball constellation, namely: Tamika Catchings, Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Kara Lawson, Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter.
“Naming these eight players was not that difficult of a decision to make, I’m sure, because those eight were truly instrumental in winning the Olympics in Beijing,” Auriemma said.
While competing on previous USA Basketball teams, Bird won six gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal and Taurasi earned four gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
“I’m looking forward to the training camp this fall,” Auriemma said.
“I know not all of them are going to be there, I would presume, because a few of them will be playing in the championship series in the WNBA. I understand that, but just to be around them to let them get a feel for me, it will give me an opportunity to evaluate what they can do, what they do well. It’ll help me put them in a position to be successful,” he said.
Bird said she hopes her relationship with her former coach at UConn will allow her to act as a liaison between her teammates and Auriemma.
“Diana and I are familiar with his style, even his lingo, so I think we can help act as a bridge between [Geno] and the other players,” Bird said.
More players will be added to the team as training camp approaches and it would be no surprise if Maya Moore and Tina Charles end up on the final roster.
Taking back the gold
According to USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan, the team owns a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 88-21 record at the event.
In 2006, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. fell 75-68 to Russia in the semifinals, then beat Brazil for a bronze.
Members of that team are anxious to erase the sting of their unexpected loss to the Russians.
“We’re really hungry to get that [gold] medal back,” Bird said.