Geno Auriemma is very good at what he does and by the time he calls it a career, he may be considered the best. That explains the seven national titles with the Huskies, a program he built, as well as his current role as the 2012 US Olympic women's basketball coach. With the summer Olympics just months off, Auriemma, who is currently in the middle of coaching the second-ranked Huskies, is beginning the process of assembling a roster.
In a Monday press release, USA Basketball announced that 21 players were finalists for the final US Olympic team roster. Details via USABasketball.com:
Highlighted by a trio of two-time Olympic gold medalists and featuring a total of nine players who have won Olympic gold, 21 USA Women’s National Team members were today named as finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team. The player selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee. …
The 21 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team include: Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Baylor University), Lindsey Harding (Atlanta Dream), Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), Kara Lawson (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Candace Parker(Los Angeles Sparks), Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars).
“Now that we’re down to 21 finalists, you look around and you see a group of players that have tremendous experience,” Auriemma, the 2009-12 USA National Team coach, said via the release. “(We have) players that have won (Olympic) gold medals, won World Championships, there are WNBA champions on the list, players that have won in Europe in international competition. You’ve got a group of players that have experienced everything there is to experience and as a coach, as someone who’s been around these players, I couldn’t be happier with this group. They represent the best of what the United States has to offer.”
Of that group, seven (Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles and Maya Moore) are former Huskies.
“When you’re trying to pick a team,” Auriemma said, “it’s important that you don’t just say, ‘okay, well, we’re just going to get the best player and that’s all there is to it.’ You’re trying to put together the Olympic team. So, you’re trying to find players that fit together very well, that are very compatible, they complement each other’s strengths, hide each other’s weaknesses. So, we’re going to have to decide: What kind of team do we want? What are the dynamics that we’re trying to achieve? In the end, are we prepared for anything the other countries are going to throw at us and do we have something for every occasion? As we’re picking the team, those things are going to be really crucial.”
That explains the additions of Bird, Catchings and Taurasi, gold-medal winners from 2004 and 2008. As well as Cash ('04 gold medalist) and Augustus, Fowles, Lawson, Parker and Pondexter ('08 gold medalists).
More details via the press release:
Twenty of the 21 athletes compete professionally in the WNBA and most continue to hone their games during the winter in China or Europe. The lone collegian is Griner, who has the chance to be the first collegiate athlete selected to a U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team since 1988 (Vicky Bullett, Maryland; Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee).
Auriemma will be assisted in the USA’s quest for a gold medal by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors.
The biggest question isn't if the US team will be favorites to win gold -- they will, likely by a landslide -- but whether Auriemma can juggle the responsibility of coaching two high-profile teams. History says he can, though it won't be easy.
"It's fun, it's draining, it's exhausting, it's pressure," Auriemma said just hours before Monday's victory over Oklahoma. "It's all the things that you would want. There is no way to get around it. But I don't go to work at Connecticut thinking necessarily about what I want to do with the Olympic team. And I don't spend time when I am with the national players thinking about what I want to accomplish at UConn. Those thoughts may occur, but they are not conscious decisions on my part."