Looking to continue its international dominance, the U.S. team hopes to extend its Olympic gold medal streak to six and will open its Olympic competition against Senegal.
Coached by Geno Auriemma — the UConn women’s basketball coach who recently led the Huskies to their 11th NCAA Championship — the team enters the Olympics on a 41-game winning streak dating back to the bronze-medal game in 1992 in Barcelona. Auriemma has a 23-0 record with the national team, which includes victories at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships.
Five team members played under Auriemma at UConn, but he said his experiences with them now is much different than when they were in college because they’re not the same players anymore, with the exception of Stewart.
“The fact that we have very little preparation relative to the rest of the world, (coaching them abroad) was a little bit of a help for me,” he said Wednesday via teleconference. “But this time around, I think what’s more important is the fact with Sue, Diana, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, the fact that I coached them in the 2010 world championships and the 2012 Olympics, I think that experience of being with them during that time of their lives is more significant than the time they spent at Connecticut with me.”
The dozen players named were narrowed down from a list of 25 finalists, who were announced in January.
“We have that pool of 25, and you could probably literally pull 12 out of a hat, send them to the Olympics, and they would have a chance to win a gold medal,” Bird said at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit in March. “That’s just how good our country is right now in this sport.”
To her surprise, Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker did not make the final cut. The 30-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist missed the first half of the 2015 WNBA season to rest after recovering from injuries but averaged 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists after her return.
Parker said on Twitter she was disappointed to be excluded from the Olympic team, but wished the other players good luck