New U.S. women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley believes stalwarts Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird will return for a run at the 2020 Olympics.
“My gut feeling is yes,” Staley said when asked directly Friday, followed by a chuckle and adding no further detail.
Staley knows Taurasi and Bird from coaching them as an assistant on the 2008 and 2016 Olympic teams under Geno Auriemma. And from playing with them at the 2004 Olympics, the third and final Olympics for Staley, who carried the U.S. flag into the Opening Ceremony in Athens.
Those were the first Games for Taurasi and Bird, the youngest players on that team who have gone on to win four gold medals each. Nobody has won five Olympic basketball gold medals.
Neither Taurasi nor Bird has announced whether she will try for Tokyo 2020. Bird said before Rio that it would likely be her last Olympics. Taurasi said after the Rio final that she was likely done.
“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”
Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. Bird will be 39. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.
“We all know when it’s time,” Bird was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story on Staley’s hiring Thursday. “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.”
If there is any concern about the future of the U.S. women, winners of 49 straight Olympic games dating to 1992 (48 by double digits), it’s the unknown of who will succeed Bird as the primary point guard.
Staley, who passed that torch to Bird in 2004, shrugged off any roster concerns so early into her tenure and the Olympic cycle.
“We have an incredible pool of players, but we’ll cross that road when we get there,” Staley said Friday. “Players haven’t committed yet, nor have they told us they’re not going to come back and play. Until we’re at that crossroad, we’re going to act as if we’re going to have our best players representing the USA.”
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