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. Staley was 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.