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Candace Parker unsure of 2020 Olympic run after Rio snub

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Dawn Staley was announced as the next U.S. women’s basketball head coach on March 10. Candace Parker said Tuesday that she learned of Staley’s hiring “a couple of days ago” from a Los Angeles Sparks teammate.

Parker was surprisingly left off the Olympic team more than 13 months ago. As the WNBA season gets going, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion has little to say about her future with the U.S. national team, if there is to be one at all.

Does she want to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at age 34?

“I don’t know,” Parker said before beating the New York Liberty on Tuesday night. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Parker was playing overseas for a Turkish club when Staley was announced as the successor to Geno Auriemma nearly three months ago.

Parker played collegiately at the University of Tennessee, the main rival to Auriemma’s Connecticut teams, but Parker suited up for Auriemma at the 2012 London Olympics and led the team in rebounds and blocks.

Auriemma was not part of the five-person selection committee that left Parker off the Rio Olympic team. Committee chair Carol Callan said the forward Parker played a position that was “the strength of” the U.S. team. Two of the three first-time Olympians in Rio, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart, played the same position as Parker.

The selection committee for the 2020 Olympic cycle has not been announced. The next major tournament, the FIBA World Cup, is not until September 2018. Parker has plenty of time to weigh her options.

In the meantime, she praised Staley, both on social media after Staley won the NCAA title with South Carolina in April and on Monday night.

“I’m proud of her,” Parker said. “I think she deserves it [the U.S. head-coaching job]. She’s an outstanding coach winning a national championship.”

Parker is coming off an outstanding year since being left off the Rio team. She achieved her top career goal — a WNBA title, even greater than Olympic gold, she has said — with the Sparks last season, earning finals MVP.

Parker dedicated the campaign to her college coach, Pat Summitt, who died in June after battling Alzheimer’s for nearly five years.

After her first four games this season, Parker is the only WNBA player averaging 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

Parker has said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would be able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

Parker said last June that it was “too early to tell” if she would wear a USA jersey again.

Now, Parker has that WNBA title. Her next goal? Winning another WNBA title.

“You can luck up and do anything one time, not that you’re going to luck up and win a championship,” said Parker, who also won two NCAA titles at Tennessee. “There’s a lot of people that have one championship. I said it in college, all the greats had multiples. That’s kind of what I’m aiming for.”

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Dawn Staley believes Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird will try for 2020 Olympics

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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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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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