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Dawn Staley to coach U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 2020

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NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team turned to its past to find its next coach.

Dawn Staley will coach the team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said two people with knowledge of the decision. The people spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been publicly announced. Staley will be introduced at a news conference in South Carolina on Friday.

Staley helped the U.S. win gold medals as a player in 1996, 2000 and 2004. She also was an assistant coach on the 2008 and 2016 teams that won golds. The Americans have won the past six Olympics.

The 46-year-old Staley has coached at South Carolina since 2008, guiding the Gamecocks to four straight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and three consecutive SEC Tournament crowns.

She succeeds Geno Auriemma, who became the first coach to lead the U.S. women’s team at two consecutive Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

The 2020 Olympics are in Tokyo, and Staley will first coach the U.S. team at the FIBA World Cup next year in Spain.

“I’m happy for her, she paid her dues been on two different Olympic teams as an assistant,” said Sue Bird. “Arguably, there’s nobody more perfect for the job.”

Staley inherits a U.S. national team that has a roster in flux. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings retired while Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird haven’t committed to playing again. Both would be in their late 30s by the start of the Tokyo Games.

“We all know when it’s time,” Bird said. “I don’t feel even comfortable talking about not just the Olympic team, but basketball. When it comes to USA Basketball it’s such a coveted position that we all work for, you only want to be in that position if you’re at the top of your game. We got a long way to go between now and then. It’s not a yes or a no.”

There still is a strong young core with Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart — Staley will likely have to find a point guard to run the team if Bird does not return for her fifth Olympics.

“She helped develop me,” Bird said. “Her last quad as a player, she knew that someone would have to fill her shoes and saw it was me. She was there to help me, there to be in my ear. She gave me advice. The international game is different and players are playing overseas. Just because they haven’t been on a USA team doesn’t mean they don’t know the international game. Definitely could see Dawn helping any young player in that position.”

Besides her work with the national team, Staley has a 21-0 record as head coach of other U.S. basketball teams leading the U18 and U19 squads to gold medals in 2014 and 2015. She also guided the 2007 Pan-Am team to a championship in 2007. She was honored as co-recipient of USA Basketball’s coach of the year in 2015.

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Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, agent says

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Olympic gymnastics champion Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, her agent said.

Hernandez has not competed since taking team gold and vault silver at the Rio Olympics, followed by winning “Dancing with the Stars” later that fall.

She said in October that she hoped to compete in 2018 but would not rush a comeback. Hernandez since decided not to compete at the U.S. Championships this August.

No member of the Final Five has competed at the elite level since Rio, though Madison Kocian is in her sophomore season at UCLA and Simone Biles plans to return this summer.

Aly Raisman said in September 2016 that she planned to take one year off, then return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But her focus shifted in the last year to something more important — taking on USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The last member of the Final Five, 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, has not said in widely reported comments if or when she will return to competition.

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Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

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Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

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