Tina Charles on USA Basketball national team: ‘I served my time,’ available in emergency

Tina Charles
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Tina Charles, a member of the last three U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams that won gold medals, ceded her spot on the national team, at least for now, to the next generation of players.

Charles, who led the WNBA in scoring in 2021, was among the veteran stars who weren’t on the 28-player training camp roster that will vie for spots on the team for next month’s FIBA World Cup.

Most of the absences were expected: Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles are retiring. Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury earlier this summer and, at age 40, is no guarantee to play internationally again. Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 with U.S. officials hoping to bring her home in a prisoner swap.

Charles, a 33-year-old center for the Seattle Storm, was arguably the most accomplished missing name that came as a surprise.

“I served my time,” Charles told Alex Azzi of On Her Turf on Wednesday. “I served my country since 2009. I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity. I always told them if they ever need me, please reach out, but I think with this future young crop that’s coming up, not knowing where I’m at in the next couple of years, I just felt it’s time to give the position there. But again, they have my phone number. They have my email. If it’s ever an emergency, I’m willing and ready to serve my country. But right now, the option is mine. I think it’s good for this future crop.”

Charles played on every Olympic and World Cup team dating to 2010, when she was the WNBA No. 1 overall draft pick out of Connecticut. She has never lost a game in a USA uniform at a global championship (unlike Bird and Taurasi).

She started six of eight games in her Olympic debut in 2012 and all eight games in 2016. Last year, she came off the bench in all six Olympic games.

The younger crop of bigs that Charles mentioned shined in Tokyo. For the first time in decades, the top three U.S. scorers were all bigs: A’ja Wilson (26 years old), Griner (31) and Breanna Stewart (27). The lone collegian on the World Cup camp roster, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, is also a frontcourt player.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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